Pumpkin, known as a seasonal superfood, is generally enjoyed either in soup, as a garnish or as a side dish.
While there are different kinds of pumpkins from yellow pumpkin to green pumpkin --known as aehobak in Korean -- not many people here think of using them in a grilled salad or cooking it with rice.
To break the mold, Kim Seung-kyu, a young chef in charge of menu development and cooking at Baby Pumpkin, says he wanted to offer diners a fun experience while making the most of his restaurant's titular ingredient.
“I personally like pumpkin. It is a great ingredient, which can be combined with various genres of food, both Western and Korean dishes,” Kim told The Korea Herald.
At Kim’s restaurant, located in Yongsan-gu, central Seoul, 90 percent of the menu includes pumpkin as an ingredient. You can find pumpkin as one of the veggies inside the shop’s signature Vongole stew and chicken cream stew, which Kim tried to add a “Korean taste” to a typical western-style stew by using local ingredients and spices.
There are three kinds of curry dishes -- pumpkin chicken curry, pumpkin hamburger green curry and pumpkin cheese dry curry. All of them use homemade sauce using deep veggie broth and are served with pumpkin rice, which is made by cooking sticky rice with a slice of yellow pumpkin. The sweet and soft taste of chewy rice goes well with thick, spicy curry sauce.
Toppings such as green pumpkin, eggplant and tomato are fun to eat it with, offering a contrasting texture -- both visually and gustatory.
But the most pleasurable “pumpkin” experience at Baby Pumpkin was their salads.
Pumpkin Jambon Burrata salad, which used grilled green pumpkin instead of lettuce that is normally served with jambon and burrata, was an unexpected match. The green pumpkin was well-seasoned, using the right levels of olive oil, salt and pepper, but what really elevated the sweetness and savory taste was the ground almonds that were put on to it -- the hardened outer peeling of the green pumpkin after being grilled on a pan went well with the almonds’ nuttiness.
For Romaine Caesar salad, they completed this well-known menu with dried pumpkin chips, adding the extra crunchiness that offers different joy compared to croutons.
For all menus, fries, pumpkin croquettes and cheese croquettes can be ordered on the side.
According to Chef Kim, they plan to open more ingredient-focused restaurants in the future.
“(Whether it’s corn or something else,) I’m planning to open more restaurants like this and introduce more dishes that use common ingredients but in a more fun way. But the focus will still be Korean interpretation of Western dishes like our Vongole stew,” he said.
Address: Hangangdaero 10-gil, 13, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 12 a.m from Monday to Saturday
Price: 12,000 won to 15,000 won
From the hippest Korean eateries to global restaurants’ Seoul branches, The Korea Herald tries out new dining spots in its New In Town series. The Korea Herald pays for all visits. - Ed.