This silky and comforting kabocha squash porridge is topped with sweet rice dumplings, making a perfectly satisfying, delicious, and healthy soup to enjoy this fall.
Hobakjuk is a Korean porridge traditionally made with steamed squash and some form of glutinous rice (either soaked rice or rice flour). Here’s your Korean lesson for today from someone with very questionable Korean language skills: “Hobak” is squash and “juk” is porridge. Class dismissed.
What makes this so different than your pumpkin or butternut squash soup? Glad you asked. First, there is no cinnamon/nutmeg flavor that’s usually found in pumpkin soups. Second, the rice component gives it a distinctly unique flavor and texture. Third, there are rice dumplings in it (they’re little chewy rice balls that make the soup extra cute and tasty). Last, this one is made with kabocha squash, which I am definitely biased towards. In my opinion, it has a very uniquely nutty quality that makes it one of the tastiest of all squash varieties. This soup could easily be made with pumpkin, sweet potato, or another type of squash (butternut, acorn, delicata, etc). But if you have a choice, I would highly recommend trying the kabocha squash.
I’ve been made fun of for having the tastebuds of a baby and an old grandpa. I guess it’s kind of true in that I enjoy things like oatmeal, applesauce, porridge, soups/bisques, etc. Apparently I like things that don’t require teeth to eat! Anyways, I’ve always loved hobakjuk, and finally decided to give it a go myself. I followed this recipe by The Kitchn. It’s extremely simple and straightforward – even the little rice dumplings are incredibly easy to make! WHAT I DID DIFFERENTLY: I used less sugar and less water, and I used roasted squash instead of steamed squash (I’ll explain why in a little).
A few words on SWEET RICE FLOUR. Have you ever had mochi (plain mochi, ice cream mochi, little mochi bites in your fro-yo)? That’s made from this sweet rice flour. I know it may seem like a very foreign ingredient, but it’s actually pretty accessible. The Mochiko brand that I used is stocked in most grocery stores (look in the “ethnic” or “asian” food aisles). Although I’m usually all for ingredient substitutions (especially to spare myself an extra grocery store trip when I’m feeling a tad lazy), I highly recommend trying to get a hold of some sweet rice flour (any brand) for this recipe. Not only does it make the porridge special, but you need it to make those absolutely adorable rice dumplings! The rice dumplings are actually optional too, but why would you not want to make them? It literally only takes 2 ingredients and a few minutes. When they’re cooked and ready to eat, the rice dumplings are delicately chewy but soft and fluffy at the same time.
ROASTING VS. STEAMING. Traditionally, hobakjuk is made with steamed squash, and that’s what the original recipe calls for. I chose to roast my squash instead for 3 reasons: 1. I don’t have a steamer. 2. Roasting vegetables releases a sweetness and wonderful flavor of the squash that isn’t achieved via steaming. 3. (most heavily weighted reason) The recipe calls for peeled and cubed squash. Even cutting the squash in half scares me, so peeling and cutting the squash into little cubes is something that I definitely don’t want to do. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m clumsy and slightly prone to injuries, but the outer portion of the squash is extremely tough to cut through. I honestly am worried that I’ll cut my finger off (or seriously injure myself in some other way). Needless to say, just thinking about peeling and cubing the squash makes me shudder. I would like to keep all my fingers please. Hence the reason I opted for roasting. I just cut the squash into quarters, removed the seeds, put it on a baking sheet, covered it with a foil tent, and baked for 40 minutes at 400F (or until the flesh is fork tender). Once it’s all cooked and cooled, simply spoon the flesh out. With this method, you’ll avoid potential injuries and all body parts will hopefully remain in tact.
I hope you give this recipe a try and are able to experience the deliciousness of this dish! It’s the perfect food for a crisp fall day (but really any day is a good soup day). It might be a little adventurous, but you’ll see that it’s like a big, yummy, comforting hug in a bowl. Enjoy!
- 1 (2-pound) kabocha squash* (see note)
- 3 cups water
- 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
- 2-4 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Optional ingredients - cooked red beans, pine nuts, black sesame seeds, green onions, pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
- 3-5 tbsp hot water
- Cook kabocha squash (steam or roast). To STEAM, peel and cube the squash into 1" pieces. Place the squash in a steamer and steam for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Let cool. To ROAST, preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash into quarters, remove seeds, place on baking sheet, cover with foil tent. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until fork tender. Let cool. Scoop out the flesh using a spoon.
- While the squash is cooking, prepare the rice balls. In a bowl, mix 1/2 cup sweet rice flour and 3 tbsp hot water. Mix and add more water 1 tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached. Dough should resemble play dough in texture. Divide into 8-12 pieces, and roll into balls between your palms. Cover with damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Set aside.
- Once your squash is cool, place squash, water, 1/4 cut sweet rice flour, brown sugar, and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. (Or use an immersion blender). Add more sugar and salt if necessary.
- Place the porridge in a large pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- While the porridge is cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil. Place rice dumplings in boiling water and cook until they float to the top (2-4 minutes). Remove with slotted spoon.
- Assemble bowls. If using red beans, add a spoonful to the bottom of the bowl. Ladle the porridge over the top, and add 3 rice dumplings to each bowl. Garnish with black sesame seeds, green onions, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts (optional)
- * You can substitute pumpkin or butternut squash (or try sweet potato or acorn squash!)