You can hand carry pumpkins on planes. How do I know this wonderfully obscure fact? Nate slipped one into my carry-on on our way back from Ohio when I wasn't looking. I set my bag, suspiciously heavy for only containing my clothes, onto the airport x-ray conveyor belt and the security guard was waiting on the other side to escort me aside to undergo "additional screening." When he pulled the pumpkin out of my bag, I said, "I did not put that in my bag," which only made matters worse.
Fortunately, my pumpkin cleared the x-ray machine again and the explosive detector and I was free to go on my way with my pumpkin in hand for others passengers and my obnoxious brother to see. This pumpkin is the pumpkin you see cut up below. We made a pumpkin and corn stew out of it and a picture doesn't do it justice.
Pumpkins are obnoxious too, to peel and carve with all their gooey bits inside, a likely reason why people only cook with them when they're in season and why I think the smell and taste of pumpkin has come to mean for me that yet another October is here, another fall, another Halloween, another week just before the holiday season rush that will drain me of my savings and end with the need for me to make a slew of new resolutions.
This Chinese pumpkin and corn stew, 南瓜玉米湯 (nán guā yù mǐ tāng), is bright in color and simple in flavor-- don't be dismayed! Simple in this case is a good thing. Fresh pumpkin, hearty carrots, juicy corn and onions, stew together in a pot with pork and ginger to create the flavor of fall, if their is such a thing, and if not, at least the colors. The pork loin lends just the right amount of meatiness. I'm dining on this homey stew this drizzly late-October evening and I'm thankful that I have enough to last me the week.
This soup is normally made with Chinese nangua squash instead of pumpkin. Nangua squash has a dark green skin and yellow flesh that tastes a little sweeter than pumpkin. You can find it here in the States hiding under its Japanese name "kabocha." I decided to use pumpkin in the stew instead because I picked one up at a pumpkin patch and the stew turned out delicious.
I've made this stew with and without ginger. I prefer with. In the picture above Nate is finely chopping the ginger but I think adding slices of ginger to the stew and then removing them before eating works better.
I also roasted the seeds of the pumpkin with salt and a sprinkling of oil like my mom does every year. I burned my hand on the hot pan while pulling them out of the oven. The roasted seeds went flying across my apartment floor and that was the end of that. I'm not carving another pumpkin.
Pumpkin and Corn Stew
1 1/2 lb pork loin
5 cups 1-inch cubed peeled pumpkin or squash
2 large carrots
1 medium onion
2 ears of corn
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
1/2 cup shaoxing rice wine
5 slices ginger, smashed with the flat side of a knife
1 1/2 cups teaspoon salt
Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes. Slice the carrots into 1-inch segments. Chop the onion. Trim the ends of the corn and cut each ear into 3 segments. Bring the chicken stock, water, and shaoxing rice wine to a boil in a large pot. Add all the remaining ingredients and when it boils again, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the ginger slices with a slotted spoon and serve.