An age old question: is a pumpkin a vegetable or a fruit? When I was young, I thought pumpkin was a vegetable best served as a savory snack.
However, pumpkin is also an excellent ingredient for a variety of delicious desserts! One famous Cambodian dessert is Pumpkin Coconut Custard, or as it is called in Khmer, Num sangkhya L’peou.
The custard is thick, creamy and sweet with a soft texture. This Cambodian dessert is served only on very special occasions and celebrations in rural areas; the ingredients can be hard for rural families to obtain, and it has a relatively long preparation and cook time.
There are five basic ingredients: one kabocha squash or pumpkin (7-800 grams), six egg yolks, one to two cups of coconut milk, 300 grams of palm sugar and a half teaspoon of salt.
Interested in making it yourself? First, you need to prepare the pumpkin. Take the lid off, spoon out all of the insides and rinse the pumpkin. Then, let it dry. Keep the lid to cover. For the custard, you mix palm sugar with coconut milk and eggs and salt until sugar dissolves. Chill and pour the custard mixture inside the pumpkin. Steam the whole thing in a steamer. The heat is about low to medium temp for 50 minutes. If you bake in the oven, it will take 40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave it cool completely for at least 45 minutes, as this will allow the custard to set in the pumpkin. We serve this dessert like a cake. We can eat even the soft skin of pumpkin.
In fact, this dessert is well known not only in Cambodia but also in Laos and Thailand. Pumpkin is rich in dietary fiber, vital antioxidants, minerals and vitamins and very low in calories. One great bonus to this dessert is that it encourages kids to eat more pumpkin (something we try to promote in many of CWS’s programs across Asia!). Families can enjoy this dessert with ice cream and or sticky rice. So for a special Halloween, pumpkin coconut custard is a good choice for sweet treat. Try it out and you will ask for more!
Isaree Khreusirikul is the CWS Country Representative for Cambodia.