Many years ago, one of us went to a Thai restaurant with a large group of people, one of whom was from Thailand. He ordered for the table so that we’d be sure to have authentic Thai dishes. For dessert, we had custard-filled pumpkin, which was delicious. When we picked up our Kuri squash this past Wednesday, we thought they might be the perfect vehicle for making this traditional Thai dish.
So, we looked up “Thai pumpkin custard” on the Internet and found that, traditionally, the custard is made with coconut milk or cream. Well, we had neither, nor the coconut palm sugar. We didn’t want to track these down, so we just scratched up something that we thought might be similar.
As we found out, you really want to go with a sweeter squash; those small sugar pumpkins are probably the best choice. We were attempting to make a coconut-flavored cream, and it worked, sort of. Next time we’ll seek out real coconut milk. As always, use fresh, tasty eggs, the kind that come from hens allowed to forage on grasses and bugs.
Procedure in detail:
Steep. If you don’t have coconut milk, you can try this: place half and half in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut and sugar and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat, cover, and let steep until cool, about an hour. If you’re using coconut milk, you can skip this and the blending step; i.e., just whisk in the flavorings and eggs.
Add flavors. Add the vanilla and pinch of cinnamon (about 1/8 teaspoon) to the cooled cream, and stir in. Feel free to taste the cream mixture and adjust to your taste.
Blend. Place the cream mixture into a blender and process on high until smooth. This will probably take about a minute or two to get the coconut ground up.
Add eggs. Drop the eggs into the blended cream mixture and blend on a low-speed until completely incorporated and smooth. Let the mixture settle while you clean the squash.
Clean squash. Just as with a small jack-o-lantern, cut off the top of your pumpkin (or squash) and scoop out the seeds. You can roast up the seeds for a little treat, or just discard them. Scrape all the stringy strands from the inside of the squash and discard.
Fill. Hold a strainer over the opening of the pumpkin and strain the custard mix through. You’ll have finely-ground coconut that will get caught in the strainer, so you might have to clean it once or twice to keep the liquid flowing. Stop filling when the cream mixture is about 1/2 to 1/4 an inch from the top, as it expands as it cooks.
Steam. If you have a steamer, you’re all set. Otherwise, think of an improvisation. We used a rack suspended from the handles of a pan and resting about 2 inches from the bottom. Then we added an inch of water. Place the custard-filled pumpkin on the rack, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium low to keep the steam going, and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is very tender and a skewer inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.
Cool. Remove the steamer from the heat, remove the cover, and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes, then transfer the squash to a plate and cool completely in the refrigerator.
Make cinnamon sugar. Probably not traditional, but we liked it, and thought that it made our version taste pretty good. In a small bowl, mix together powdered sugar and cinnamon until uniform in color.
Serve. Slice off wedges of the pumpkin and set them custard side up. Dust with the cinnamon sugar and enjoy.
Our idea for flavoring the half and half with coconut didn’t work very well. We really couldn’t taste any coconut, so, if possible, make something more traditional with real coconut milk (see this Thai Pumpkin Custard, for example). Also, the Kuri squash just wasn’t sweet enough (nor the custard, but, then, we only used half the sugar that we’ve listed in the recipe — we didn’t know how much to add when we first made this), so look for a small sugar pumpkin and you’ll be fine. All things considered, we’ll have to say our attempt was somewhat a failure, especially compared to the real-deal that we remember, so two stars.