--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm. The soup episode airs Monday 2 August. Each episode will be made available after broadcast on SBS On Demand. ---
While most people are familiar with Vietnamese noodle soups such as pho, bun rieu and bun bo hue (BBH), did you know there's an even larger catalogue? In fact, soup or canh is a staple on the dining table most nights in a Vietnamese household.
A typical weeknight dinner for us usually consists of a mix of savoury dishes to share that are served with individual bowls of steamed rice. A big bowl of canh at the centre of the table is an essential piece to this puzzle.
Canh is usually consumed in one of three ways: to prepare your palate for the ensuing meal, throughout the meal as a palate cleanser, and to end the meal.
The latter is my preferred option and means saving a small amount of rice in your bowl to cover with a ladle of soup, along with your choice of vegetables and protein that have been slow-cooked in the soup. Not one grain of rice would be left behind.
Another fun fact — Vietnamese soups are never blitzed, pulsed or pureed. Vietnamese vegetable soups can be served with rice because they're light in texture. The soup's base is often made with either a master chicken stock, pork bone broth or water and the vegetables are just cooked through.
"In my family's Vietnamese pumpkin soup recipe, homemade chicken stock and minced pork and prawns delivers an umami flavour, rounding off the soup."
To accentuate their texture and withstand the simmering process, the vegetables are cut into chunks and only vegetables that don't easily break down during the cooking process are used.
Because of this, the Japanese/Kent variety is preferred in Vietnamese pumpkin soup over butternut. The Japanese/Kent pumpkin is sweeter in flavour and firm in texture, making it an ideal candidate for slow simmering. This leaves you with a pumpkin soup that's naturally sweet and with moreish, soft chunks of pumpkin that don't disintegrate.
In my family's Vietnamese pumpkin soup recipe, homemade chicken stock and minced pork and prawns delivers an umami flavour, rounding off the soup and complementing steamed rice and other savoury dishes such as a Vietnamese beef and zucchini stir fry or lobster tails with snow peas in a ginger sauce.
Polarising textures play a defining role in Vietnamese cuisine and the minced pork and prawn meatballs provide supple ones that contrast the velvety smooth Japanese pumpkin.
If you're familiar with western style pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto or even fond of brodo with a handful of pastina, ladles of rich Vietnamese pumpkin soup over a bowl of freshly steamed rice with perfectly cooked Japanese pumpkin is worth a try this winter.
Duncan Lu's Vietnamese pumpkin soup
- 1 kg Japanese/Kent pumpkin peeled and roughly chopped into chunks
- 1.5 L chicken stock or 1 L reduced salt chicken stock and 500 ml water
- 10 g dried shrimp (optional)
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ bunch spring onion finely chopped (optional)
- 1 bunch coriander finely chopped (optional)
- 1 clove garlic crushed (optional)
Pork and prawn mince
- 250 g pork mince
- 300 g uncooked prawns de-shelled and finely chopped
- ¾ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp finely sliced spring onions
- ½ tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp oyster sauce (optional)
- ½ tsp sesame oil (optional)
- In a small bowl, mix the pork and prawn mince ingredients with a spoon or spatula until mixture is sticky and well combined, then fold through spring onions. Mixing well allows to build a springy texture, similar to filling for dumplings. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
- In a large pot, bring 1.5 L of stock, garlic and dried shrimp to the boil. Once boiling, add pumpkin and bring to the boil again then simmer on low-medium for 10 mins. Add additional chicken stock or water if liquid does not cover pumpkin
- After 10 mins, with a teaspoon add the pork and prawn mixture into the pot in small sized dumplings (ping pong ball size) and simmer for a further 15 mins.
- Garnish with spring onions, coriander and cracked black pepper. Serve with fresh steamed rice and a savoury dish such as Vietnamese beef and zucchini stir fry or lobster tails with snow peas in a ginger sauce.
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