Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hobahk Jook (호박죽) Korean Pumpkin Porridge: Missing Grandmother

While living in Korea, I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to spend time with my maternal grandmother and learn some old style cooking techniques from her. She is a formidable cook by her own right (the woman still makes the best dumplings (만두) in the world) and would cook for me special dishes as she felt so sorry for me, living so far away from my mother. (of course what I craved most of the time were tacos and burritos which are not in her repertoire.) One day, I had a beautiful sweet pumpkin (단호박) in my apartment, and I was suddenly inspired to ask her what we could make with it - and she immediately suggested we make this pumpkin porridge. She also wanted to make it the "real way" which meant no short cuts and no conveniences. Needless to say, it was hard work (peeling a pumpkin is no small feat) but the result was a beautiful silky sweet concoction that I will never forget.

This is great thing to master, especially those of you who feel desire to prepare special things for your parents or your in-laws as a sign of love and respect. I enjoy making this for my own mother-in-law, as she loves it so much - she still protests when I make it for her, as she knows how hard it is to peel the darn pumpkin, but she consumes every bit of it. It is especially "restorative" if someone is sick or not feeling well.

Now, my grandma doesn't believe in the fast method - so when I make it, I find myself peeling a kabocha squash (readily available at Asian supermarkets-choose one that seems heavy for its size) and this can be time consuming. I have experimented with using butternut squash in lieu of the kabocha, as it is possible to find pre-cut, pre-cubed butternut squash at both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. My mother-in-law has taste tested the pre-cut butternut squash version, and while it doesn't have the full depth of sweetness that a kabocha had, she did say that if it were much easier, she would prefer that I make that version over the kabocha squash version, if only to prevent me from slaving over a pumpkin.

Pumpkin Porridge (호박죽)
1 lb peeled pumpkin, cut into small chunks (kabocha which you will have to peel yourself, or try the pre-peeled, pre-cut butternut squash from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.)
5 cups water
1/3 cup sweet rice (찹쌀) OR sweet rice flour (mochiko is a brand that comes to mind - my grandmother would disapprove but she's not eating yours)
1-2 tablespoons soft brown sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the pumpkin itself)
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)

These directions are for using sweet rice.
1. Wash and rinse the sweet rice well. Soak in 1 cup of water. (the longer you soak is better - overnight in the fridge is great. Otherwise a good two hours can be sufficient.)
2. Place the pumpkin in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft and breaks up completely when stirred with a wooden spoon. (This may take longer than 25 minutes, but eventually it will happen.)
3. Blend the water and the sweet rice together - you can use an immersion blender (my choice of utensil) or a regular blender. Add rice water mixture to the pot of softened pumpkin which is simmering. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. You will notice the mixture go from cloudy to a slightly translucent orange. (warning you can EASILY scorch this so do NOT be tempted to leave this alone, or to turn up the heat to speed this up.)
4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the sugar and salt. Serve garnished with pine nuts (as above).

These directions are for using sweet rice flour.
1. Place the pumpkin in a pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the pumpkin is very soft and breaks up completely when stirred with a wooden spoon. (This may take longer than 25 minutes, but eventually it will happen.)
2. Mix the rice flour with remaining cup of water, then add the mixture into the pot of softened pumpkin. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. (don't BURN IT!!!)
3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the sugar and salt. Serve in individual bowls, topped with pine nuts.

Printable recipe


chocolatecup said...

that looks like comfort food to me:)

darlyne said...

That looks yummy. I am wondering do I need to strain the rice water mixture or just pour the whole thing in there? Thanks!

Joanne Choi said...

Darylne - if you're using whole sweet rice grains, you don't need to strain it - you'll need to blend the whole thing together to get the rice all mixed up with the water and get it ground up pretty finely. Then dump the entire rice water mixture in

Anonymous said...

for even lazier people (like me!)...use jarred butternut squash babyfood....which is essentially just plain butternut squash purree...i tried it and it tasted pretty close to the packaged korean porridge!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this recipe! I just used it to make delicious pumpkin jook!!

Madeline said...

Thanks for sharing. It looks like a bowl of goodness.

Anonymous said...

This sound delicious, making tonight. of course using grandmas methods! Except: I cook kabocha a lot for Japanese cooking, often we will boil the well washed pumpkin with skin on. When tender the meat slips right off the skin with no effort. You might try that and see if still works for you.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention above: this should be a well washed , de-seeded pumpkin cut into large chunks....

yuni.k said...

Oh my goodness! This soup reminds me of my mom, I'm so glad you posted it. Every time I go home to visit, we have lunch at this amazing Korean place across from her work and in the winter they give us a bowl of this soup as a starter. Comfort food at its best.


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