Sweetcorn, Pumpkin, Cassava and Rice Soup with Spinach

Preparation info

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Appears in

New Wave Asian: A Guide to the Southeast Asian Food Revolution

New Wave Asian

By Sri Owen

Published 2002

  • About

This is real ‘comfort food’, perfect for a family meal. For anyone in the northern hemisphere, it makes a warming winter’s day lunch or supper. I first encountered it among the hills of North Sulawesi, one of the Indonesian islands only a few miles from the Equator, and for people there it provides a healthy and hearty breakfast. Needless to say, the best result is achieved when all the ingredients are as fresh as they can be.

Cassava(Manihot esculenta,) grows well in poor soils and positively likes a long dry season, which makes it very suitable for the eastern Indonesian islands. The root tubers taste good, are rich in starch, and contain some protein and vitamin C. These tubers range from small, white-fleshed, sweet-tasting and almost non-toxic, to large (about 60 cm / 2 feet long), yellowish, somewhat bitter and poisonous. Most of the poison (prussic acid) is in the outer layers of the tubers and is removed by peeling. When the tubers are boiled, the enzyme is destroyed and no more prussic acid can be released. Many varieties of sweet cassava can be simply peeled, cut up and eaten raw in salads.


  • 225 g/ 8 oz peeled and cubed cassava
  • 60 g/ 2 oz long-grain rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes, then drained
  • 225 g/ 8 oz peeled and cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 4 corn cobs, kernels removed
  • 225 g/ 8 oz young spinach
  • 225 g/ 8 oz water spinach, trimmed
  • 1 tsp chopped soft inner parts of a lemon grass stalk
  • 2030 sweet basil leaves
  • salt and pepper


Soak the cassava in lightly salted water, then drain. Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain.

Put 1.1 litres/ 2 pints cold water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cassava and rice, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the pumpkin or butternut squash and the sweetcorn. Continue to simmer for about 25 minutes. The mixture is then ready to become the basis of the soup; it can be prepared and cooked to this point a day or two in advance, then refrigerated until needed.

When ready to serve, heat the soup in a saucepan until it is boiling, reduce the heat and stir well. Now add the two kinds of spinach, the lemon grass and the basil leaves, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, if required. Simmer for another 1 minute and serve piping hot.