Steamed pumpkin and coconut custard
In Thai, sangkaya means custard, which is the basis of quite a few Thai desserts. One of the most popular of these is a coconut custard steamed inside a pumpkin. Thai pumpkins are small and squat with knobbly blue-green skin and light golden flesh. Japanese pumpkins are quite close to them in both taste and texture. If you can't find a small enough pumpkin, you can make the custard separately, steaming it in a small tray and serving it with slices of steamed pumpkin. It is also often served with steamed white sticky rice. Make sure you use the thickest coconut cream, otherwise the custard could split and it will never really set firmly once it has cooled. Thai cooks like to steam this over quite a high heat, which can also cause the custard to split and will certainly leave pock marks as the air expands and forms bubbles under such duress. I plump for a gentler approach, which makes for longer cooking but a better result. The custard should taste of palm sugar and the texture should be rich and velvety.
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- 1 large or 2 small Japanese pumpkins
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 3 tbsp shaved palm sugar
- cup thick coconut cream
- Pinch of salt, to taste
Cut the top off the pumpkin and carefully scoop out the seeds, then rinse well. Place the pumpkin upside down in a steamer and steam for about 15 minutes until partly cooked. Remove and turn upright to allow any steam to escape.
In a small brass wok or pan, mix the egg with the sugar and coconut cream and salt. Gently warm this mixture over a low heat to a little above room temperature, then strain it.
Pour into the pumpkin and steam gently for about 15-20 minutes until the custard is cooked; it should be softly set, with a light wobble if you nudge the pumpkin. If you find the custard needs a little more time, wipe dry the inside of the steamer lid before replacing it, so no water drips on to the custard as it steams.
When it is done, lift off the entire steamer basket and place on a large plate. Leave the custard-filled pumpkin to cool completely before cutting into wedges to serve.