It's currently 61°F. I don't like the cold. I complain when temperature is around 60°F. Die when it dips below 50°F.
To warm myself up, I wedge myself between my children and smooch off their body heat (reason I have two kids). That and eating lots and lots of soups. Luckily, Vietnamese Home Cooking always has a side of vegetable soup (canh) so I'm ready at a moment's notice to whip up something delicious to warm the belly.
During the cold months, Kabocha Soup or Canh Bi Do is my one of my go-to soups. Kabocha squash is plentiful, starting in the early Fall. You can find them in both Asian and American supermarkets. They are similar to pumpkins but instead of a bright orange skin, it is deep green. Some may have bumpy knobs on the surface, and the center of the squash is hollow and filled with large seeds. The flesh is bright yellow/orange and hard as a rock. When cooked, it softens and tastes sweet, making it perfect for soups and stews. If you can't find kabocha squash, substitute with pumpkin.
For the Vietnamese Kabocha Soup (Canh Bi Do), I start off with a pork stock made with pork bones. I clean the bones thoroughly by blanching them in boiling salted water for a few minutes. Blanching bones is something very Vietnamese Home Cook does. Blanching bones for stocks serves three purposes. 1. It kills any surface bacteria. 2. It rids of any foul smell. 3, and most importantly, it keeps the stock clear.
Once the bones are blanched. I discard the water by pouring the content of the pot into the colander inside the sink. The bone gets a massage and rinse under cold running water and back into a pot of new boiling water. The stock simmer for about 30 minutes, after which I add kabocha squash. Some people peel off the skin of the kabocha squash and mainly use the flesh, but peeling off the hard skin is no easy task. Many times I have to use a mallet to pound on the backside of my knife to help cut through the skin. I recently found out that you simply can just leave the skin intact and add it straight to the soup.
Once the kabocha squash is chopstick-tender, season with salt, sugar and stock powder (in the recipe below, I used mushroom stock powder). Right before serving, add chopped green onions and a pinch of black pepper and you're done!
In the cold months, I spend lots of time huddling for warmth between my kids and very little time in the kitchen. So when it comes to cooking, I need a recipe that fills me up for a long time, takes no more than one hour, and tastes delicious. Kabocha squash soup fits the bill. Enjoy the recipe below =)
Vietnamese Pork Rib Soup with Kabocha/Pumpkin (Canh Suon Nau Bi Do)
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 lb pork bones or spare ribs cut into bite-size pieces (blanch in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes, then rinse)
2 liters water
1-1/2 lbs kabocha squash flesh cut into bite-size pieces (with or without skin)
2-1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons white granulated sugar
3 teaspoons chicken/mushroom/pork stock powder
Pinch black pepper (1/8 teaspoon)
2-3 green onions (remove stems, cut into 1-inch segments)
Add vegetable oil to the bottom of a small pot. Heat on medium low. Add garlic. Stir until fragrant (about 15 seconds).
Add pork bones/ribs. Toss pork bones until evenly coated with garlic.
Add water. Bring pot to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Occasionally skim off the foam at the top as needed.
Add kabocha. Cook for 5-10 minutes until squash can be pierced with knife with a bit of resistant (we don't want mushy squash).
Season with salt, sugar, stock powder and black pepper.
Turn off heat and top with green onions. Serve as is or with steamed rice for a complete meal.