Roasted Kabocha Miso Soup is a warm, filling, hearty soup for those chilly fall nights. Full of delicate, Japanese flavors, this soup is surprisingly complex for how simple the recipe is.
That means by now we have all been inundated with pumpkin everything and I, for one, am sick of having my taste buds assaulted by artificial pumpkin flavoring. So today, we’re going to do it right.
Before we get started I should get into what a pumpkin is. A pumpkin is more than just some orange fruit we cut open, disembowel, and carve a face in. A pumpkin is a part of the winter squash family and has a sweet but ultimately mild flavor compared to its kin. The pumpkin we usually see in stores is a Sugar Pumpkin (aka Pie Pumpkin). The problem is, it isn’t all that sweet. A naturally sweeter cousin of the pumpkin is the butternut squash. It’s sweeter, more flavorful, and the flesh is less mealy so it is easier to puree, which is one reason you find it in soups so often. Butternut squashes are a great substitution for any recipe that calls for pumpkin.
BUT! Pumpkin and Butternut Squash have a badass cousin. A cousin that shows up to children’s birthday parties on a Harley. A cousin that when someone smashes a pumpkin, it smashes back. A cousin that taught Michael Bay what an explosion really is. I’m talking about a Kabocha.
You mean that stuff hipsters drink that tastes like gasoline and makes me fart?
No…no…That’s Kombucha. A Kabocha is a more flavorful, sweeter, less mealy member of the winter squash family. Pronounced Ka-Bo-Cha, it is a variety of winter squash native to Japan with a tough green skin and orange flesh. I prefer to substitute kabocha in any recipe that calls for winter squash.
Top: Kabocha Bottom Left: Butternut Squash Bottom Right: Sugar Pumpkin
I’ve gone on long enough about squash. Let’s get started making soup! Kabochas can be kind of tough so we have to cook them to soften them up. You could try sever methods like boiling, steaming, or roasting. In this case we are going to employ the scientific reaction known as the Maillard Reaction, which happens during roasting. Basically the Maillard reaction is what happens when sugars and proteins in a food brown. This brings out a sweeter more robust flavor.
Preheat an oven to 350ºF and move the rack to the center. Next, cut a whole kabocha in half and scoop out the stringy guts and seeds with an ice cream scooper. DO NOT THROW THEM IN THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL! It will jam up your disposal. I learned that the hard way. Then, cut the halves into large chunks that lay flat if place the pieces skin side up. Drizzle with some olive oil and rub each chunk with your hands, making sure they are well coated. Lay them out on a baking sheet, skin side up, and roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes.
Lay Them Out Like This
So Bright! So Orange!
That’s right! Your kabocha chunks should be a nice bright orange with flecks of brown caramelized sugars and the flesh should be nice and soft. Because it’s nice and soft, the next step should be easy. Trim off the green skin and discard it.
Next, we’re going to need to make a stock for the soup. Relax, it’s actually really simple to do. For the stock, we’ll be making a kombu stock, which is a Japanese seaweed heftier in weight and texture than sushi nori. In short, Kombu is used to give a delicate flavor and texture to Japanese stocks.
But But But. Where Do I get Kombu?
Asian specialty stores, mainly, but you can also order it on Amazon, Making the stock is fairly simple. Kombu comes in 4-inch squares and this recipe calls for 10 grams. A square is usually 10 grams but if it has broken up in the package (they are dried and brittle) just weigh out 10 grams on a kitchen scale. Place it in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil (I prefer using a tea kettle because it’s quicker and cleaner) and pour it over the kombu. Allow it to steep until the water has come to room temperature (about 30-45 minutes). When it’s ready, discard the kombu
While the kombu is steeping, slice the leeks and prepare your other ingredients.
I Think I’m All Set. We Good To Cook?
When the stock is ready, set a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Melt the butter and then throw the leeks in and cook until they are beginning to brown (3-5 minutes). Next add the cinnamon and nutmeg and cook until fragrant (30-60 seconds). Add the kabocha, cook for 2 minute. Then pour the kombu stock into the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then, using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Finally, whisk in the milk and the miso paste until the miso paste is fully dissolved. The soup should be on the thicker side.
But, that’s it. You is done! Serve the soup hot with a good crusty bread and cheese.
Currently Jamming To
This recipe requires a little something special. Here’s a list of what you will need: