Sunday, November 28, 2010

Custard Pumpkin

Custard Pumpkin

My first-ever Thai meal was at Sawatdee in St. Paul, MN, and I capped off a good dinner with a great dessert: a slice of rich, spongy custard embedded with diced pumpkin. Since that day I've rarely passed up a chance to eat Thai custard, preferably cooked inside a hollowed-out pumpkin, and served by the slice with a side of coconut black sticky rice.

Since I don't always have a retail source, I resort to making my own about once a year, usually around Thanksgiving when the prevalence of pumpkins acts as a mouth-watering reminder. My results have been mixed. True Thai custard calls for duck eggs and palm sugar, so my chicken egg and cane sugar version is bound to be a bit off. For such a short recipe, it also contains a daunting number of variables, from the size and moisture content of the pumpkin, to the volume and freshness of the eggs, to the eccentricities of whatever ersatz steaming contraption I've rigged up. Added to that, I tend to try a different recipe every time, which I realize is not the best approach in terms of trouble-shooting. Accordingly, over the years my "custard pumpkins" have overflowed, fallen, or failed to set--and on one dramatic occasion, the pumpkin sprang a leak and bled out all over the steamer.

But still, this stuff is so good and--theoretically--so simple, that by the time pumpkin season rolls around I'm always ready to try again. Here's what I tried this year:

Slice the top off one smallish kabocha or sugarpie pumpkin (for reference, that's a salad-sized plate in the photo above) and scoop out the guts. Pop the pumpkin into whatever steamer you prefer (I set it on a steel steamer basket inside a crockpot), add water and get the steam going. If you have room you can put the pumpkin lid as well. Mix 1c coconut milk, 1c brown sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk 4 eggs until foamy. Gently combine the eggs and coconut milk mixture and pour into the pumpkin; ideally the liquid should be pretty close to the top of the opening (the contents will rise and then fall) but I'm never sure what to do if it isn't. Steam until the custard is completely set and the pumpkin is soft but not mushy. Cool, slice into wedges, and serve.

Custard pumpkin 2010 might have been a little short and oddly lumpy, but it was quite delicious. I already have my eye on this recipe for custard pumpkin 2011.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I think the best pumpkin for this recipe is kabocha aka Japanese pumpkin.

Did you know that you can make this dessert in the microwave too?

I have some posting about Thai sweets on my blog.