Hobakjuk or Korean Pumpkin Porridge is the perfect food for a cold winter day or any day. It is also a yummy healing food, light on the stomach and very nutritious! VEGAN and GLUTEN FREE.
Hobakjuk (Korean Pumpkin Porridge) is considered a great healing food among Koreans. In addition to Miyeok Guk (Korena Kelp Soup), Hobakjuk is another one of Korean mothers’ favorite soup to make for their daughters after having a baby. While Miyoek Guk is known to help with milk production and the recovery of the new mother’s body (esp. uterus), Hobakjuk is known to help new or expecting mothers get rid of their puffiness. Hobak (Pumpkin), especially Neulkeun Hobak (늙은 호박 which means mature Pumpkin), is a mild diuretic and is also high in beta carotene and potassium. So it is good for your eyes, heart and bladder/kidney. How awesome is that??
So before I get into the recipe for Hobakjuk I wanted to share a little bit about how I ended up making this dish recently. Last Saturday, I hosted our neighborhood people at our home as part of our neighborhood Progressive Dinner.
What is that??
Well, if you have not heard of it, a Progressive Dinner or Safari Supper (in the UK) is “a dinner party with successive courses prepared and eaten at the residences of different hosts”.(Wikipedia) And I am just so lucky to live in a neighborhood where neighbors gather each year to visit each other’s homes to enjoy food, mingle and share the joy of living in such a wonderful neighborhood.
All 120 or so people start out gathered all together at one house for Appetizers and then we are divided into groups of 8-10 to move onto different homes that host the first Salad or Soup course. After the soup/salad course, the group is shuffled once again and assigned to different Entree course host homes. Finally, for dessert, people gather up again at our club house to enjoy desserts and drinks to end the night. It really is fantastic! I just LOVE IT. I love getting to know neighbors that I don’t know, I love visiting different homes decorated beautifully and of course, most of all, I LOVE having great food prepared by amazing home cooks who are so generous enough to share their home and food with others. The only thing that stresses me a bit is that the parties always have a theme. And we have to dress with the theme. Koreans are just so NOT used to this kind of thing and I am just so not creative that way…
For the last 3 years, I volunteered to help with the Progressive Dinner event and also host a course at our home. Although it is quite a bit of work – coordinating desserts (I am the dessert coordinator), getting the house ready, decorating the table according to the theme, and then of course, preparing food. But it is SO worth it. This year, the theme was Winter Olympics 2018 which I’m sure you all know that it was in Pyeongchang, Korea! So here’s how I decorated my table –
I was so excited for this and then realized it was the most opportune time to make something Korean! I was first planning to make my Soba noodle salad but because the weather was so cold last week, I decided to make something warm and something Korean. And then it came to me — Hobakjuk made with Kabocha Squash would be oh so perfect!! And this Kabocha Squash Porridge was so00 good that all my guests were asking for a recipe so here we are.
Tips regarding Hobakjuk or Pumpkin Porridge
- What kind of pumpkin can I use for HobakJuk (Korean Pumpkin Porridge)? Koreans normally use Fairytale Pumpkin (청둥호박 Cheongdung Hobak) but you can also use other yellow pumpkins or even Kabocha Squash (단호박 Danhobahk) as I did here. Kabocha works great since it is naturally sweeter and smaller in size.
- How to easily peel or cut Kabocha Squash – Kabocha is quite hard to cut when uncooked. Cook Kabocha squash in the microwave for 5-6 minutes and it is much easier to cut or peel.
- How to make Kabocha Pumpkin Soup NOT Porridge (less thick) – The recipe for Hobakjuk that I share below is NOT the exact dish I prepared for the Progressive dinner. Because I served with some home made no knead bread, I thought the typical thickened Hobakjuk may be a little too thick to go with the bread. You can make the less thick version simply by omitting the sweet flour slurry.
Hobakjuk (Korean Pumpkin Porridge) Instant Pot Recipe
Makes: 16 cups Cooking Time: 20 min (with IP), 45 min (no IP) Difficulty: EASY
** Make Hobakjuk in the Instant Pot in less than 20 minutes minus the mini sweet rice balls. If you end up making them, it may take a few more minutes.
If you have a whole Kabocha Squash, rinse and microwave on high for 5 – 6 minutes. It is much easier to cut and peel when cooked slightly. Cut Kabocha Squash into big chunks after peeling them.
INSTANT POT: Add Kabocha Squash pieces to Instant Pot and add 2 cups water per 1 Kabocha Squash (1 kg = 2.2 lb). Cook at Manual High for 5 minutes. Natural release if you have extra time otherwise do manual release which should take about 10 minutes or so.
REGULAR: Boil cut kabocha in a pot (bring to boil then reduce to medium heat) with 3 cups water (per 1 Kabocha) for 25-30 minutes until fork goes in really easily and breaks apart.
OPTIONALLY — While squash/pumpkin is cooking, make mini sweet rice balls (chapssal sae-al-shim 새알심) to add to porridge. Start boiling a pot of water before you start to make sae-al-shim. Make the dough by mixing sweet rice flour and HOT water (1/2 cup sweet rice flour and 3 Tbs water to make 28 mini balls).
Intially, mix with a spoon because it will be too hot. After it’s cooled a bit, form the dough into a ball with your hands.
Tear off a little bit of rice dough and make mini balls. I made mine about 1.5 cm (1/2 in) in diameter and you can make about 28 of them with this recipe which means you can have at least 3 per serving of 2 cups when you have 16 cups of porridge.
Cook in boiling water for about 2 minutes until they float to top when cooked.
Take rice balls out of the boiling water and drain, let them cool. Keep them covered so they don’t dry out.
Once squash or pumpkin pieces are fully cooked, get a blender or chopper to blend it as smoothly as you’d like. I have an 8 cup Vitamix blender and so I divided the pumpkins into 2 batches.
Blend half of the cooked pumpkin and half of remaining liquid from pot (about 1/2 cup) + 2 cups water for each batch. Note, the picture is BEFORE I added extra water. The old fashion Korean way to make hobakjuk is to use a sieve and mashing the cooked pumpkin through. If you have a food mill you can use that too. I made this super smooth but you can make yours to have more texture if you want.
You can either put the blended pumpkin mix back into your Instant Pot or into a large pot. Season with sugar and sea salt to taste. Mix. I added about 2 Tbs + 2 tsp sugar and 3/4 tsp sea salt.
- Instant Pot : Turn on Sauté button and choose LESS or whatever button combination that will simmer.
- Regular Pot: Turn heat on low to simmer.
Make a sweet flour slurry of (6 Tbs sweet rice flour + 8 Tbs water) to thicken up the Pumpkin soup to make Hobakjuk. Using a whisk, mix quickly as you pour the slurry in. Simmer for another 5 min or so until it looks like this.
Now you are ready to serve!!
- Serve Hobakjuk just by itself.
- OR serve Hobakjuk with any or all of the following: toasted or raw pumpkin seeds, sweet rice balls, dried cranberries, dried jujube (daechu) and even some cooked azuki red beans. To cook the azuki red beans, just soak them in water for several hours and then cook them in water until soft.
Hobakjuk - Korean Pumpkin Porridge (Instant Pot and Regular Recipe)
- 1 kabocha squash (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)
For Instant Pot
- 6 cups water
For Regular Cooking
- 7 cups water
Sweet Rice Balls
- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour (mochi flour)
- 3 Tbsp hot boiling water
Sweet Rice Slurry
- 6 Tbsp sweet rice flour (mochi flour)
- 8 Tbsp water
- 3 Tbsp sugar (optional or use less for soup)
- 0.75 tsp Sea Salt (Trader Joe's)
- If you have a whole Kabocha Squash, rinse and microwave on high for 5 – 6 minutes. It is much easier to cut and peel when cooked slightly. Cut Kabocha Squash into big chunks after peeling them.
For INSTANT POT
- Add Kabocha Squash pieces to Instant Pot and add water. (2 cups per 1 Kabocha Squash) Cook it at Manual High for 5 minutes. Natural release if you have extra time otherwise you can do manual release which should take about 10 minutes or so.
For Regular Cooking Method
- Boil cut kabocha in a pot (bring to boil then reduce to medium heat) with water. (3 cups water per 1 Kabocha Squash) Cook for 25-30 minutes until fork goes in really easily and breaks apart.
Make Sweet Rice Balls (SaeAlShim) - OPTIONAL
- While the squash/pumpkin is cooking, make mini sweet rice balls (chapssal sae-al-shim 새알심) to add to porridge. Start boiling a pot of water to cook the rice balls in. Make dough by mixing 1/2 cup sweet rice flour and 3 Tbs HOT water.
- First mix with a spoon because it’s so hot! After it’s cooled a bit, gather with your hands and make it into a dough ball.
- Tear off a little of the dough and make cute mini sweet rice balls. I made each of mine about 1.5 cm (1/2 in) in diameter.
- Cook mini rice balls in boiling water. Cook for about 2 minutes and rice balls should float to the top when cooked.
- Take rice balls out of the boiling water and drain, let them cool. Keep them covered so they don’t dry out.
BOTH for INSTANT POT and REGULAR COOKING METHOD
- Once the squash or pumpkin pieces are fully cooked, get a blender or chopper to blend it as smoothly as you’d like. Divided pumpkins into 2 or more batches depending on the size of your blender.
- For each 1 cooked Kabocha Squash, blend the squash + remaining liquid from pot + 4 cups water.
- You can either put the blended pumpkin mix back into your Instant Pot or into a large pot. Season with sugar and sea salt to taste. Mix.
For INSTANT POT
- Turn on Sauté button and choose LESS or whatever button combination that will simmer.
For REGULAR COOKING
- Turn heat on low to simmer.
Make Sweet Flour Slurry
- Make a sweet flour slurry of (6 Tbs sweet rice flour + 8 Tbs water per 1 Kabocha) to thicken up the Pumpkin soup to turn into Pumpkin Porridge. Using a whisk, mix quickly as you pour the slurry in. Simmer for another 5 min. SERVE warm.
Tips & Notes:
- Serve with no garnishes or with any or all of the following: toasted or raw pumpkin seeds, sweet rice balls, dried cranberries, dried jujube (daechu) and even some cooked azuki red beans.
- To cook the azuki red beans, just soak them in water for several hours and then cook them in water until soft.