Eight Treasures Squash Soup
From Martin Yan's Asian Favorites (Canada, UK)
Kabocha? You Betcha! More than falling leaves and a biting wind, what signals summer's last gasp to me is the changing inventory at my local farmers' market. Once the produce tables start filling up with pumpkins, I get ready to pull out my winter coat and my chef's knife. And I'm not talking about just jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, either. Take kabocha, for instance. This lumpy, turban-shaped gourd has a thin, waxy green skin splotched with yellow and orange. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder and on the palate of the taster, as you'll find out the minute you experience kabocha's mildly sweet, tender orange flesh. It's a favorite in Japan, where cooks prepare it with a little brown sugar or dunk chunks in tempura batter and deep-fry. Because of its round shape and ample size, I think a hollowed-out kabocha squash makes a great soup tureen.
1 whole kabocha squash, 2 to 3 pounds
1/4 pound medium raw shrimp, shelled, deveined, and butterflied
1/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken, diced
1/4 pound Virginia ham, diced
3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps diced
1 small carrot, diced
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
3 to 4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 green onion, thinly sliced, for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Lower squash into water so that it is completely covered and cook for 10 minutes; drain. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut top off squash and reserve as lid; scoop out and discard seeds.
Place shrimp, chicken, ham, mushrooms, carrot, and peas in squash. Place filled squash in a large pot.
Combine stock and rice wine in a bowl; pour into filled squash so liquid comes to within 1 inch of the top. Pour remaining liquid into pot around squash. Place reserved squash lid over filled squash.
Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease heat and simmer until flesh of squash is tender when pierced, 30 to 35 minutes.
Ladle soup into four bowls. With a spoon, scoop flesh from squash and divide among soup bowls. Garnish with green onion.
Yield: Serves 4