Pumpkin and Egg Stir Fry

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Ugly food is good food. This stir-fry is full of soft textures and gentle flavours, quite unlike the complex profiles of the more popular Thai dishes. Even if you’re a chilli fiend who loads up on the stinkiest fermented sauces, sometimes your palate (and, let’s be real, your guts) become exhausted, and you return to the comfort of nursery-style food.

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This is another variation of the veg-with-egg-type stir fries you see in Thai homes, like the cucumber and egg stir fry I showed you a while ago. These plain dishes are easy to eat with rice, either on their own or as part of a multi-dish spread, particularly as a contrast to other dishes which have more robust flavours and textures.

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While it’s plain, it’s not boring: the scrambled egg absorbs more flavour than you thought possible, providing an almost sauce-like softness clinging to the vegetables. (If you don’t want to use egg, I’m quite sure you could use a little bit of silken tofu for a very similar texture.) This dish is delicious just seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, but you can also use soybean paste, the same kind as in the Hainanese chicken sauce.

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As Leela observes here, the best pumpkins to use for Thai dishes are kabocha, muscat/fairytale squash, and  potimarron/chestnut/kuri squash (it seems a green-skinned type is called a Hokkaido squash). You may have more luck finding these varieties at markets, particularly farmer’s markets. Pick something which has fine, nutty, smooth flesh with a mild sweetness. I used the wedge of squash I got from my weekly vegbox; to be honest, I ought to have peeled it, but it still yielded fudge-like flesh upon cooking.

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Served with just rice, it makes for a generous lunch, but you can stretch it further with a few other dishes. I cooked some shredded kale (again from the veg box) and glass noodles in chicken stock, then drizzled the soup with a little fried garlic oil. There was also a piece of smoked mackerel. These are all soft, relatively plain foods (in my book, at least), and all with different characters. They all got along very well on the plate and in my mouth.

PUMPKIN AND EGG STIR FRY
Adapted from SheSimmers.

Serves 1 generously with rice, or 2 if you’re having other dishes. Best eaten right away, but it’s ok reheated within 2 days–maybe add a jolt of extra stock and salt or something.

ingredients
About 200g – 300g fresh pumpkin, peeled (if tough skin) with pulp and seeds scooped out
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 – 2 eggs
1 dessertspoon yellow soybean paste or about 1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Water
A little ground black or white pepper

instructions

As this is a stir fry, set up your ingredients near the stove. Cut the peeled and de-seeded pumpkin into 2 – 3 cm/1 inch chunks and keep them together with the garlic. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. If you’re using the soybean paste, it’s highly recommended you dole it out onto a spoon.

Set a medium-large wok on a high heat. Once nice and hot, swirl in the vegetable oil to coat the base and tip in all the pumpkin and garlic. Stir for a minute or two so the pumpkin is coated with oil and the garlic becomes fragrant and lightly golden. Pour some cold, plain water over the pumpkin to cover them by three-quarters. Leave this to boil excitedly, keeping in an eye on it, until the pumpkin is just cooked–anywhere from 5 – 12 minutes. You want the water to help soften the pumpkin and prevent it from catching, but you don’t want soup, so allow the water to evaporate. When it’s ready, the pumpkin should be easily pierced with a knife, but not mushy.

Once the pumpkin is cooked, clear a space in the middle and add the eggs. Let it settle for a few seconds, then scramble with your spatula. Add your seasonings and stir very well. Taste, adjust seasonings, then transfer to a platter and serve.

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