Hobakjuk: What Is It, Where To Buy, and How To Eat?

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There are countless types of porridges out there. Each culture has their own take on what ingredients to blend together. One of these cultures is Korean culture. 

There’s a special type of porridge called hobakjuk in Korean cuisine, but what exactly is it?

Hobakjuk is a pumpkin porridge originating from Korea. It’s a comforting food you’ll see served to older members of the Korean community along with anyone who’s sick or had recent surgery. It comes from the word hobak, which is the Korean word for pumpkin or squash. It’s known for being an affordable comfort food.

The rest of this article will cover what hobakjuk is, how to eat it, and a brief conclusion. 

What Hobakjuk Is

Hobakjuk (호박죽) is pumpkin porridge that’s made using a special type of pumpkin called danhobak (단호박). 

Danhobak is also known as kabocha squash, Japanese pumpkin, and Kent pumpkin. The reason it’s commonly made using danhobak is because it’s a winter squash.

Another pumpkin that Koreans prefer are cheese pumpkins. In Korean, these are called cheongdung-hobak (청둥호박). 

It’s extremely flavorful and especially beneficial to those who recently had surgery. Hobakjuk is known for reducing swelling for surgery patients.

The texture is very smooth. That’s what makes it so good for people who are recovering from illnesses. It’s easy on the throat and even soothes any irritation the person has. 

Also, because it’s so warm, it’s eaten during the fall and winter.

With the texture being as smooth as it is, it’s used for baby food. If you want to use this food for your baby, you can. 

Just be sure to remove the sugar, salt, and any rice cake balls to make it safer and easier on the baby’s digestive system.

As for taste, hobakjuk tastes sweet, nutty, and velvety. The reason why it’s sweet is that the porridge gets seasoned with sugar. 

However, since the squash used to make it is already sweet, you can get it without the added seasoning and still taste the sweetness.

Where To Buy Hobakjuk

In Korea, it’s pretty easy to get your hands on affordable hobakjuk. It’s not a main course type of meal. 

It’s comforting and can be filling, but it’s more for occasions where you need heat and something to replenish your nutrients. Therefore, you can find hobakjuk in cafes.

In fall and winter, you can find hobakjuk at countless Korean cafes and restaurants

In the spring and summer, it’ll die down in popularity, but you can still find small portions of it at those cafes and restaurants. You can go dine-in, get take-out, or order delivery.

There’s also buying packaged hobakjuk. In Korean convenience or grocery stores, you can find microwavable containers of hobakjuk. 

This option is the cheapest since they’re premade, easy to make packages. Look out for little soup containers that say 호박죽 on them.

Outside of Korea, there’s less options since it’s not a very popular food in other countries. 

However, you can go to Korean restaurants and have hobakjuk there. You should have it as a starter meal or a side dish to your main course, also called banchan (반찬) in Korean.

Although it’s unlikely you can find packaged hobakjuk at your local grocery store, it’s worth checking and asking a worker about. 

If you can’t find it, then you’ll have to pick up the ingredients and make it from scratch.

How To Eat Hobakjuk

Porridge isn’t the type of food that has you jumping with creative ideas for how to eat it. 

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t different ingredients you can put in to change the taste. If changing the taste doesn’t appeal to you, try choosing a new environment to eat in.

For starters, you can add rice ball cakes into your porridge to enhance the taste. They can be used as a garnish for your porridge. 

If you like sweet foods, then you should get sweet rice ball cakes and add them to your porridge with a sugar seasoning.

When you’re sick, porridge is a great option to ease your pain. It helps significantly with issues like sore throats, coughing, and runny noses. 

The heat provides comfort and relief. That’s why you should try eating hobakjuk when you’re sick.

Lastly, temperature changes your enjoyment of food. Eating hot food out in the blistering heat won’t be as pleasant as eating a delicious ice cream treat to cool you down. 

With that in mind, you should have hobakjuk in the cold so it can warm your body up.

Eating Hobakjuk With Rice Ball Cakes

For an average portion size, you’ll want to add about five rice ball cakes to your porridge. The rice balls are about the size of a chestnut. 

If you’re having a larger portion, do more than five. If you’re having a smaller portion, do less than five.

Rice ball cakes are called saealsim (새알심) in Korean. The reason they’re called this is because saealsim literally means bird’s egg. 

The rice balls are made to resemble bird eggs, most notably a quail’s egg. You can also call rice ball cakes rice dumplings.

You can make them using sweet rice flour. They’ll thicken your porridge and add a jelly texture to the meal. If you’re looking to add more sweetness to your porridge, then you should give rice ball cakes a try.

Eating Hobakjuk When You’re Sick

As mentioned earlier, the texture of hobakjuk allows for easy access of the liquid down your throat. 

If your throat feels tight or like solid foods won’t go down, you should switch to porridge not only to keep you eating, but also to reduce the tightness you feel.

As for surgery, the porridge relaxes the muscles in your body. With this relaxation, you can reduce swelling and ease the pain. 

If you’re planning to have surgery, pick up some hobakjuk and prepare to try it after you’re done with the operation.

Eating Hobakjuk In The Cold

Warming up next to a fire while eating hot food is relaxing and a great way to spend your chilly evening. 

Hobakjuk is a good choice since you can make it as hot as you want. You can put it in the microwave longer than needed to get it piping hot, or you can make it lukewarm.

Conclusion

In South Korea, there’s a pumpkin porridge dish called hobakjuk that’s made from hobak. Hobak is the Korean word for pumpkin or squash. 

It’s most used as a food for the elderly, or those recovering from an illness or surgery. It reduces the pain from both illness and surgery.

Hobakjuk is pumpkin porridge that’s made using a special type of pumpkin called danhobak. This and cheese pumpkins are the two most common ingredients in hobakjuk. 

If you’re looking to purchase it, either buy it from a Korean restaurant or store, or cook it yourself.

To enjoy your porridge more, you should try adding rice ball cakes into it. That will make it a bit sweeter and more nutritious.

Also, try having it while sick. This will reduce your symptoms. Lastly, eat hobakjuk while it’s cold to get the most enjoyment out of the warm, sweet food.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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