I have always loved spicy food. Ever since I was a young girl, I remember watching my grandfather eat pickled chile peppers from a jar with his congee. Congee is a rice porridge and many Chinese eat this soupy rice along with other savory items for breakfast. I remember trying the pickled chile for the first time. It was salty and spicy but it complimented really well with the plain rice porridge. Of course my mouth was on fire and I couldn't believe the spicy heat that enveloped in my mouth. I was intrigued by these tiny peppers that contain so much heat. That was the beginning of my interest in chiles. Through time, I've grown to love chile peppers, and hot pepper sauce has become one of my favorite condiments.
So when I read about A Chile & A Spoon challenge by Marx Foods, I was intrigued. The challenge is to use one or more of the six varieties of dried chiles Marx Foods provided and develop a recipe that you would eat with a spoon. So as a lover of chiles, I thought it would be fun to try out the variety of chiles they have to offer. The six varieties of chiles I received ranges from mild to extremely hot. So of course I was drawn to the extremely hot variety which was the Thai chiles aka bird's eye chiles. These are quite hot in the heat scale. I wanted to make a soup with seasonal ingredients. I love the sweetness of Kabocha squash (Japanese variety of winter squash); and with the Thai chile inspiration, I wanted to touch on the sweet, savory, spicy and sour flavors in most Thai cuisine. So when I came across quince (a fruit tastes similar to apples and pears but more tart and can't be eaten raw) in my local farmers market, I wanted to incorporate all these flavors in the soup. I am happy to see that Marx Foods also carries quince so you could buy it online. I also wanted to use another type of chiles and thought the dried smoked serrano peppers could add another element of flavor. Instead of adding cream I used coconut milk to enhance the Thai flavor.
Spicy Kabocha & Quince Soup with Thai Flavors (yield about 8 cups)
2 2 lb Kabocha Squash (peeled and diced)
3 quince (peeled and diced)
1 medium onion (sliced)
1 tbsp of fresh lemongrass (diced)
6 dried Thai chiles (rehydrate, seeded and diced)
2 smoked serrano peppers (rehydrate, seeded and diced)nm
3 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
1 tsp of coriander seeds (toasted and ground)
1 tsp of fennel seeds (toasted and ground)
Pumpkin seeds (toasted and salted) for garnish
Kosher salt to taste
To rehydrate the dried chiles, add hot water to the chile peppers. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes to rehydrate the peppers. Since these peppers have a higher heat index, be sure you wear gloves when working. Once they are softened, sliced them open and remove the seeds, as leaving the seeds would make them even hotter, then chopped into small pieces.
For the soup, heat a soup pot or dutch oven and saute the sliced onions with some olive oil. Season with salt, then lower the heat and covered with lid, let the onions cooked slowly in low heat which allows it to caramelized and add flavor. This takes about 30 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, prep your other ingredients. For the quince, be sure you work one at a time as the fruit can turn brown easily. Make sure you have a bowl of acidulated water (water with acid...lemon, lime, vinegar) as soon as the fruit is peeled or cut, put in the water to soak to avoid browning. Also toast the seeds and grind in spice grinder while the onions are cooked. When prepping the kabocha squash be sure you have a sharp knife and be careful when peeling the skin as the skin is thick and hard to peel. After the onions are caramelized, add the quince, kabocha squash, lemongrass, all the spices and chiles, saute for a few minutes. Then add the vegetable stock. Cook until the quince and squash are softened (about an hour). Puree the liquid in batches until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve or chinois then add the coconut milk. Heat through for another 10 minutes, add the pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.
To purchase any of the chiles I mentioned and the abundant varieties offered, don't forget to visit Marx Foods. And if you like this recipe, I hope you vote for me. Voting opens on Monday, see details on this contest page.
Labels: Savory Recipes