Hobakjuk Revisited (Pumpkin Porridge with Rice Dumplings)
I’m not crazy about cold weather. My threshold for cold weather is pretty low. If the temperature dips below 60, I just want to hibernate. But I love seasonal produce that comes with every season. Fall is no exception.
It’s not fall in our household without the cold-weather squashes. I love butternut and acorn squash. But they don’t hold a candle to my favorite winter squash of them all, kabocha squash. I love its sweetness and drier texture. It’s reminiscent of goguma (Korean sweet potato) and bahm (chestnuts), two of my favorite fall/winter treats. I love kabocha squash simply roasted or steamed. But they are wonderful in dishes as well. One of my favorite kabocha squash dishes is hobakjuk.
I’ve done a post on hobakjuk when I first started this blog. I intended to just update the photo on that post. But I decided to keep that photo as a reminder of how this blog started and how far it’s come. That was actually the first post that I shared with my family and friends! So I’m doing a new post with an updated recipe.
Just to get back to the basics, “hobak” in Korean means squash or pumpkins. So a zucchini as well as a pumpkin would both be called “hobak.” And “juk” (as I’m sure you’ve already guessed) means porridge. Hobajuk can be enjoyed in many ways. It can be served as an appetizer, an entree, and even as a dessert due to its sweetness. I personally love it as breakfast. Just hit it with an extra bit of maple syrup or brown sugar, and a handful of nuts or seeds. It’s just perfect as a healthy and hearty breakfast.
Hobakjuk is very easy to make. It’s similar to making puréed winter squash soups. But traditional hobakjuk calls for sweet rice dumplings and a sweet rice flour solution that gives the dish its silky texture. You can make this without the rice flour solution. But it wouldn’t truly be hobakjuk. It would more accurately be squash or pumpkin soup, because it’s the addition of the sweet rice solution that gives it the texture of “juk” or porridge.
The porridge is delicious on its own, but the rice dumplings really take this dish to another level. They have the texture of mochi, and they’re so delicious smothered in the sweetness of the kabocha porridge. So please don’t skip them. It takes mere minutes to put them together. Believe me. It will be worth your (very short) while.
Hobakjuk (Pumpkin Porridge with Rice Dumplings) Recipe
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 lb kabocha squash (without seeds and peel)
1/4 cup sweet rice flour or glutinous rice flour
4 cups + 3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 TB brown sugar or maple syrup
20-25 (1/2-inch) rice dumplings (recipe below)
1/4 cup adzuki beans, cooked (optional)
toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
salt to taste
1/2 cup sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
3 TB warm water + more if necessary
1/4 tsp salt
- Peel and seed the kabocha squash. Place the kabocha squash in a steamer and steam for about 20 minutes until soft. Check for doneness by poking the pieces with a fork. Let them cool. Add the squash and 2 cups of water to a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the contents into a pot. Add 2 more cups of water to a blender and pulse to get the bits of kabocha stuck to the blender. Pour the contents into the same pot.
- Bring the contents of the pot to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir well and lower the heat to medium.
- In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup of sweet rice flour and 3/4 cup of water. Slowly add this to the pot while stirring. Make sure to stir well to prevent the mixture from forming lumps. Once the contents come to a boil, lower the heat further and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir regularly to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom. The contents of the pot should now look thicker. Don’t be afraid to add water if it becomes too thick.
- While the porridge is simmering, make the rice dumplings. Mix together 1/2 cup sweet rice flour and 3 TB of water. Knead until you achieve a dough that feels like soft play-doh. Form them into 1/2-inch balls. You may need extra flour to prevent the dumplings from sticking.
- Stir in brown sugar (or maple syrup) and salt. Add the rice balls to the pot. Let them cook on low boil for about 5 minutes. Don’t overcook. The rice balls will become mushy. The rice dumplings should have the consistency of mochi. Stir in beans, if using, with about 1 minute left of cooking time.
- If necessary, salt to taste. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Toasted pumpkin seeds and additional brown sugar or maple syrup can be added if desired.
You can bake or microwave kabocha squash. If you are going to bake, don’t add any oil to the squash.
I used a small kabocha squash that weighed about 2 1/4 pounds before peeling and seeding. Kabocha squash is best for this porridge, but you can use a butternut squash or a sugar pumpkin instead.
Make sure to use sweet rice flour for this. This is what give the porridge its thick silky texture and the rice dumplings their chewy (“mochi”) texture.
I used canned Eden adzuki beans. They are the only canned bean product I use. Lining for their canned products is BPA-free.