I have eaten squash soup with hill tribes in Laos, plantation workers in Sri Lanka, and camel men in India. It is a common dish amongst farmers and reminds me of places far away from cities where food supplies are grown or traded and purchased. My version mixes this simple rural treat with the fiery urban fusion of my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The butternut squash gives this soup enough sweetness that it could almost pass for a dessert, but the lentils and veggies lend a heartiness that keeps everything on the savory side of the fence. It is healthy, protein rich, and easy to make.
Enjoy this spicy sweet soup (curry?) with some sambal oelek and a daydream, those are the best garnishes.
- 1 large (or 2 small) butternut squash cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 cups diced onion
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups diced carrot
- 1 cup dried red lentils
- 3 cups of water
- 2 cups chicken stock or equivalent
- 1 can (1.5 cups) of coconut milk
- 6-10 large cloves of diced fresh garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 tbsp ginger paste
- 0.5 tbsp lemongrass paste
- 1.5 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- salt to taste (~½ tbsp)
- black pepper to taste (~½ tsp)
- serve with Sambal Oelek
- Remove rind and seeds from the butternut squash. You will want a relatively robust knife to do this at the skin of the squash is very tough. Be careful. Dice into 1 to 1.5 inch cubes.
- Dice all veggies.
- Heat a 6 qt or larger stock pot to medium heat.
- Add 2 tablespoons (tbsp) of olive oil.
- Add carrots, onions, and celery. Saute for ~10 min until celery is getting translucent.
- Add garlic, stir thoroughly. Continue sautéing about 2 minutes. The garlic should be very fragrant.
- Add coconut milk, ginger, and lemongrass. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally, the ginger and coconut should now be fragrant (5-10 min).
- Add spices and cook another ~3 minutes.
- Add butternut squash, chicken stock, red lentils, and 3 cups of water.
- Cover and keep at low boil for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally, encouraging the squash to separate and thicken the soup.
When done squash should hold it’s shape but come apart easily, lentils and carrots should be pleasantly soft. Check spicing, add a bit more of what you like. Try not overpower the delicate flavor of the squash. I like this soup quite thick so I sometimes simmer with the lid off for additional time, follow your own personal preference.
I serve this with dollop of sambal oelek on top but it can also be added to the entire batch during the cooking process. The soup is much better with a little heat! Adding sambal as a garnish allow diners to spice each bite, mix it in, or avoid it as they please. It is best to let them know that the sambal is spicy lest they eat an entire spoonful of it 🙂 Enjoy!