Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Asian parents tend to think you’ll starve without them. Whenever my dad visits, he unloads a ton of food on me despite me being a functional adult for many, many, years now. He likes to bring Vietnamese takeouts and bags, upon bags, of groceries. Sometimes I would see bags of groceries left in my kitchen upon returning home from my own grocery trip. Here’s a tip: don’t give your Asian parents a key to your house. I digress.

When it comes to groceries, my dad’s vegetable of choice seems to be the kabocha squash. I always get a kabocha squash. My pantry is filled with kabocha squash. I have kabocha squash up the yin yang! I tried telling him to ease up on the food and that I appreciate the thought. His response? “It's OK. They last a long time,” while handing me another kabocha squash.

I’m not one to waste food so the quickest way for me to use up kabocha squash is putting them in soups (canh). I make kabocha squash soup with pork bones (Canh Bi Do Nau Suon Heo). I also make kabocha squash soup with chicken (Canh Bi Do Nau Ga). For today’s recipe, I’m making kabocha squash with pork meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc).

These Vietnamese pork meatballs are soft with a springy texture. My daughter who doesn’t like meat absolutely adores these pork meatballs because no chewing is necessary. She's a lazy little thing. When paired with kabocha in a side soup, it’s simple good eating with no fuss.

Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Vietnamese pork meatballs are made out of a pork paste called Gio Song. Traditionally pork paste is achieved by pounding chilled ground pork with a bit of seasoning (usually fish sauce, sugar, and garlic), baking powder and tapioca starch until it gets the texture of play-doh. Modern day recipe foregoes pounding and simply uses a a high-power food processor to grind the pork into a paste. Because the food processor heats up the pork after a few minutes and you have to grind it for awhile to achieve the correct texture, the ground pork has to be placed back in the freezer to re-chill before grinding again. Stopping to re-chill the pork makes the process a bit longer, but when done correctly, the meatballs are incredibly delicious with a soft and springy texture that’s unlike no other.

Gio Song when cooked as meatballs is called Moc. When Gio Song is rolled into a log, wrapped in banana leaf and steamed, you have Cha Lua (also called Gio Lua), an absolute must for one of my favorite traditional dishes, Vietnamese steamed rice rolls (Banh Cuon).

Vietnamese Kabocha Squash Soup with Pork Meatballs (Canh Bi Do Nau Moc)

Serves 7-10



  • 2 liters water
  • 1 kabocha squash (remove core, peel and cut into bite size-pieces
  • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon MSG (optional)
  • 4 green onions/scallions (remove end; cut into 2-inch segments)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Pork Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground pork (80% lean/20% fat; chill in freezer until semi-frozen such that you can break apart into big chunks by hand)
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves (peel; leave whole)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5-6 ice cubes
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca starch/flour dissolve in 4 tablespoons cold water
  • Equipment Needed

  • Food processor


  1. Break apart ground pork into small chunks and add to food processor. Add sugar, salt, fish sauce, black pepper, garlic cloves, oil and ice cubes. Blend on high for 7-10 minutes. Detach bowl (with blade) and place in freezer to chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove from freezer. Add baking powder and tapioca starch slurry. Blend on high for 5-8 more minutes until you have the paste similar to play-doh texture. Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat water (2 liters) on high. Once you reach a rolling boil, add kabocha squash. Lower heat to gentle simmer and cook for 8-10 minutes or until kabocha squash can be pierced with fork with a bit of resistance.
  3. Using two spoons, scoop and shape pork paste into balls and drop them directly into the soup pot. Cook for 4-6 minutes or until meat balls float to the top.
  4. Season soup with sugar, fish sauce, chicken stock powder, sea salt and MSG. Turn off heat and garnish with scallions and black pepper before serving.