Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I’m Calling it Chinese Okra

Sometimes I wish my Mom was better with technology. Because if she were, I could send her a photo to her mobile phone of this squash I saw at the farmers market and ask her to identify it.

This long and almost prickly squash was a vegetable my Mom cooked often when I was a kid, so I had a craving for it when I started seeing them at the various Asian vegetable stands at the Civic Center Farmers Market. It’s kind of like a huge okra because it has the same texture on the outside and the same squishy interior. It also has the same reaction to heat like okra, becoming a bit glutinous when cooked.

My Mom used to make this with clear rice noodles with some shrimp paste, and it would be a real comfort dish because of the mushy squash. This isn’t a dish I think most kids would like, but I was kind of weird and liked all sorts of vegetables growing up.

After describing this to my Mom over the phone, she says it’s a jeet gua (“gua” is the Chinese word for all squash, and I’m not sure what “jeet” means and I’m just spelling it phonetically so not even sure if I’m close to the correct name). So basically, I’m just going to call this Chinese okra until someone else out there gives me the proper name. Hope my Asian brothers can help me out! (UPDATE: I told my mom about the reader comments that this is a see gua and she says they're right and she thought I was talking about something else when she said "jeet gua." I think "jeet gua" is the squash with the slight fuzz on the exterior. I am not cooking with that!)

Now to eating it. Even though my Mom says to cook it by itself or with cellophane rice noodles, I felt that would be too bland. Instead, I felt the bland squash (it really is tasteless like okra) needed to be countered with something bold and spicy, so I decided to make this somewhat spicy ground pork dish below. This was really easy to make, quick and really hit the spot. It was kind of like a Northern Chinese dish, but I’m pretty sure it’s not that authentic so I don’t want to call it that and have people call me out on it! (You know you want to “anonymous”!)

Even though I call this Chinese okra because it reminds me of it, you can’t eat the skin like you can with okra. You have to peel it off, and it might seem weird peeling it because of the sharp ridges, but once you peel down the ridges, it’s no problem peeling the rest of the skin. It’s just a big squirmy to hold because the interior is soft like a sea cucumber. Enjoy!


Nate @ House of Annie said...

We call it sequa or loofah squash.

We like to peel the skin off, dice it up and stir-fry it with egg:

abstractpoet said...

Yeah, in Mandarin it's "si gua". In English I think people also call it a sponge gourd. Although it's got that squishy texture, it's definitely not as slimy as okra!

Single Guy Ben said...

Thanks Nate/Abstract poet! I knew I could count on you guys to help me out. I think maybe my mom says "see gua" instead of jeet gua, now that I think about it. As for the English translation, I still don't know if I'd call it the loofah squash or sponge gourd! Doesn't sound appetizing. I think Chinese okra sounds better even though I agree it's not as sticky as okra.

Nate @ House of Annie said...

We actually do use these gourds as loofahs! They sell them in the markets here for a few ringgit each. They come all dried out and hollow, with just the fibers of the squash holding the shape. People here use them as dishwashing sponges. I use them to scrub myself in the shower - a natural exfoliant :-)