This Vietnamese-style twist on a fall favorite from VietWorldKitchen will have you reaching for your soup pot and immersion blender time and time again. Although some of the ingredients may look intimidating, they are easily substituted for more readily available options. Feel free to swap a stalk of fresh lemongrass for the kaffir lime leaves, and ginger works perfectly in place of galangal (learn the difference between the two here). For a meat-free version, leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock. This highly adaptable and hard-to-mess-up soup can be made with butternut squash, pumpkin, or any other winter squash you can get your hands on at the market. Poche Family Farm, Timmy Perilloux, Amorphous Gardens, and more will have you covered for all of your squash needs, check Veggi Co-op and Amorphous for fresh lemongrass, and don’t forget the coconut milk from South of Eden.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and lightly oil. Use a cleaver to halve each squash through the stem end. Then quarter. Put the squash with one of the cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning mid-way, until soft enough to be pierced with fork or knife. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibers. Discard. Then spoon the cooked flesh from each section of squash. Set aside in a bowl.
Heat a pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the bacon and onion and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until the onions are soft. Add the squash, lime leaves, galangal, and stock. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, until most of the squash has disintegrated. Remove from the heat and cool for about 20 minutes. Use chopsticks or tongs to remove the leaves and galangal.
Use a blender or food processor to puree the soup until smooth and creamy. Work in batches, passing each one through a coarse mesh strainer into a clean pot. Add the coconut milk, taste with extra salt as needed. Reheat and ladle into individual soup bowls. Serve with lime wedges and chile oil on the side for guests to add their own finishing touches. For a touch of green, garnish with the cilantro or basil before presenting at the table.
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