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Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in Breakfast, Korean Food, Recipes, Vegetarian | 0 comments

Recipe: Spicy Korean Pumpkin Porridge (매운 호박죽)

Recipe: Spicy Korean Pumpkin Porridge (매운 호박죽)

When the leaves, temperatures, daylight hours and resistance to sicknesses drop, it’s time to think about pumpkin and porridge. Koreans traditionally make a somewhat bland 호박죽 hobakjuk (squash porridge) to aid recovery from ailments. But a bit ofchili spiciness and some patience can move this creamy goodness from sickbed to holiday crowd-pleaser.

However, I can’t just leave the old classic recipe alone. I want to take this recipe out of the sickroom (juks aka congee or porridge are traditionally eaten when one is felling under the weather and need something super easy to digest to get back into life) and onto the
kitchen tables.


My weekly packages from a local farm continue to hone my culinary acumen. Every week I seem to get at least one item that leaves me wondering whether I’m up for a challenge or will give away the perplexing produce out of laziness.

One community-supported agriculture (CSA) package in November revealed such a “secret ingredient”: two sugar pie pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo). At 6–8 inches in diameter, these are not those freakishly large pumpkins Americans carve into jack o’ lanterns for Halloween. As the name suggests, sugar pie pumpkins taste sweet and are good for baking in pies, muffins or breads.

You also can make this 매운 호박죽 meh-oon hobakjook (spicy squash porridge) with 단호박 danhobak, known in Japan as kabocha (Cucurbita maxima), or butternut squash. Use whatever squash you have on hand or can get easily.

The first step for this porridge is pumpkin puree that will be the base of the rest of the soup. This can be made a day or two ahead, if you’re pressed for time.

If you’re really pressed for time and have no sugar pumpkins or the patience to process them from scratch, use canned pumpkin. Read the label carefully to make sure it’s really all pumpkin, rather than pumpkin pie filling. That might make a fine soup, but it will not resemble the flavor of hobakjuk.

I enjoy eating hobakjuk with various seeds or nuts garnishes: pinenuts, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. I will even crumble a handful of walnuts right into the porridge to change the texture. Adding seeds or nuts into the soup instead of crackers will reduce your carbohydrate load. 


매운 호박죽 Spicy Hobakjuk

Serves: Two to four

2 pounds of sugar pie pumpkin, butternut squash or danhobak/kabocha
5 tablespoons of sweet (glutinous) rice flour
1/2 cup of water
3 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
1 jalapeno or Korean chili, seeded and chopped
pine nuts or roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Pumpkin puree

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Slice the stem(s) off your pumpkin(s). 
  3. Slice the pumpkin in half. 
  4. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp from the inside, first with your hands and then with a sharp-edged spoon. (Don’t throw out the seeds. You can roast them in oil for a garnish.)
  5. Place the pumpkin slices cut side down on a baking sheet or roasting pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake for 45–50 minutes.
  7. Allow the pumpkin to cool for 10 minutes before handling. Scoop the orange flesh away the skin, using a large metal spoon. 
  8. Using a potato ricer
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    or a fork, puree the pumpkin into a mashed-potato consistency. Set aside.


  1. Mix five tablespoons of sweet rice flour with a half-cup of water, creating a slurry. This is the thickener for the soup.
  2. Put the pumpkin puree into a large sauce pan.
  3. Pour rice slurry on top of the rice, and stir.
  4. Add the chopped pepper. 
  5. Pour three cups of water into the pumpkin and rice mixture. Mix them over medium heat until the pumpkin, rice slurry and chili are fully combined.
  6. Stir in the salt and sugar. 
  7. Cover the saucepan, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for an additional three to four minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally.
  8. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with pine nuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, or walnuts and serve.

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