Popular Post abcdefg Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:33 PM Popular Post Report Share Posted August 29, 2018 at 12:33 PM If you thought of loofah 丝瓜 as only being a luxurious exfoliating bath scrubber, well…stick around and prepare to have your horizons broadened. The young ones cook up into a very tasty vegetable that is popular in China, especially in the summer. Traditional Chinese Medicine ascribes it cooling properties 清凉, which is why your favorite Chinese grandmother 外婆 made it for you when growing up. She saw it as her sacred duty to keep your humors in balance. This is the kind of loofah you might be used to seeing. These are great for scrubbing away dead skin and are also good for scouring pots and pans in the kitchen. Loofah is a gourd that grows on a climbing vine, gaining maturity really fast. If picked young, it makes good food, and I'll show you how I cooked it up tonight. (Click the pictures to enlarge them.) Here they are at the market, each one adorned with a bright yellow flower. The flowers are edible and I'll show you how to cook those another time. Smaller loofah gourds are available as well, some only 6 or 8 inches long. This plant is related to cucumbers 黄瓜 and zucchini 小瓜。 Here, as all throughout the market, they are vying for table space with kugua 苦瓜 bitter melon, which are at their peak right now and selling like hotcakes. In selecting sigua 丝瓜, look for ones that are of uniform diameter, from stem to flower, end instead of ones that have a thick part and a thin part like a baseball bat or bowling pin. I bought two nice ones, firm and evenly colored, each about the length of my forearm. Together they cost 2.5 Yuan, equivalent to 30 odd cents US. Most of the ones on sale here are the "ribbed" variety, (shown below) because they have a better flavor. The smooth ones are slightly cheaper, but the better-tasting ribbed ones ones are really not going to bust your budget. Mine are laid out here with a couple fresh, sweet carrots 胡萝卜 and some garlic 大蒜 plus a small piece of ginger 老姜。 I bought a few mushrooms 香菇 and a couple large spring onions 大葱。Had some premium Yunnan slow-cured ham/huotui 云南宣威火腿 in the fridge and I pressed it into service. Had I not had any ham, could have used a couple pieces of bacon. One can also make this dish meatless or with tofu. Sliced thin pieces of ham then cut them into slivers. Washed the mushrooms and cut away the stems. Instead of slicing them, cut them into thick sections so they would cook a bit slower and retain more texture. Cut the carrot and the spring onion. Finely chopped the garlic and the ginger. Kept them separate from eachother so I could give the ginger a few seconds head start. (It cooks a little slower than garlic.) Got out several dried red peppers 干辣椒。After all, this is Yunnan. Once everything else was ready, it was time to prep the sigua 丝瓜。Do it last since if it stands too long after being cut, it turns brown. Peel it about half way, strips of skin removed but also leaving some. If you buy smaller sigua, no need to peel it at all. Cut it in rolling wedges, rotating the gourd about 90 degrees between cuts. This looks nice plus it exposes more cut surface area to the spices and lets it absorb more flavor while still cooking fast. The flesh should look white and homogeneous, without prominent cavities or seeds. All set. Ready to fire up the wok. At this point I like to pause and mentally go through the order in which I'll put ingredients on the flame. Items that require more cooking time go in first. I also set out all the spices I'll need right beside the stove top so as to avoid last minute fumbling. In this case, I set out some salt 食用盐, sugar 白砂糖, MSG 味精。A bottle of soy sauce 生抽 and another of aged vinegar 老陈醋。Put a teaspoon of corn starch 淀粉 into a small bowl with enough water to dissolve it into a slurry 水淀粉。 Wok goes onto high flame, when it's plenty hot but not smoking, add the oil. Add the main aromatics (蒜姜.) When they become fragrant 爆香, add the carrots. Once they begin to soften, add the ham, then the mushrooms. All this takes maybe 90 seconds. Stir constantly. Mushrooms release some of their moisture as they cook and following that, they reduce in volume. That's your cue to add the spring onions; don't wait for the mushrooms to brown. You've set the stage for the entry of the star, the tender and juicy loofah gourd/sigua 丝瓜。Put them in the middle, just like you've done with each new ingredient. That's the beauty of a wok for making quick-fried Chinese dishes like this: add new things to the hottest part in the center as you push other ingredients up the sides. Don't walk away. Keep stirring and flipping things 翻炒 as they cook. Turn the heat down to medium. If it looks dry, add a splash of water; don't let it burn. This is the point at which I add dry and wet spices, blending well. 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of MSG (optional), 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Nothing overwhelming. The sigua gourd 丝瓜 itself has a gentle taste; don't want to hide it or cover it up. Poke a piece of gourd with your chopsticks to gauge resistance; indents easily when the vegetable is done; you can also stick it with a fork. The goal is to have it cooked through without becoming soft. Doesn't take long. Total cooking time is only 4 or 5 minutes. Just as everything is done, add the corn starch slurry. This thickens the sauce and binds the flavors. Serve it up. Goes well with steamed rice. And there you have it: a fresh, tasty supper from the lowly loofah gourd. 5 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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