Thursday, May 26, 2011

Eat Your Loofa! It's Good For You!

When most vegetables go bad, they disintegrate and turn into gooey, sloppy messes in the vegetable drawer. Trust me, I know about this first hand. I'm talking about most vegetables. There is however, one vegetable that when it goes bad, gets even better. I'm talking about ridged gourd.
 Now for anyone who says, "Say what? I've never heard of this," I say look around your bathroom. Chances are this tricky little specimen of the squash family is already hiding out there, cleverly disguised as a loofah! Yes, that high toned spa squash and butt of celebrity sex scandals, I'm looking at you.
   For those of you who are interested in bathing with these natural sponges instead of cooking and eating them, just click here for the "Everything you've ever wanted to know (and more)  about loofahs" page. I however, am more interested in the culinary rather than the business end of a loofah, so when I went shopping at the Asian market in Santa Rosa the other day, I was looking for the nicest, freshest, greenest ridged gourd I could find. I had a curry on my mind.
   Weirdly enough the ridged gourd has been making quite a few public appearances lately on the famous "stump the chef" show Chopped. Just last weekend, a bunch of competitors were faced with a ridged gourd, or as they referred to it, Chinese Okra. It was one of those "talk back to the TV" moments for me. "I know what that is!!" I shouted. "Ridged Gourd! I could win this thing!!!"
  The chefs looked stumped. Very few of them knew what to do with this strange vegetable. One even left the tough, ridged skin on and laid raw slices of it on the plate. I was giddy with self-esteem. Understand that this is coming from the person who when first confronted with a steamed bao bun ate the paper doiley it was sitting on. I take my self esteem where I can get it.
  Chances are a ridged gourd  can be found in most Asian or Middle Eastern markets as Chinese Okra,  dodka, luffa  patola, dishrag gourd or angled gourd. This is what it looks like in its' natural state. Unless you are a ruminant with several stomachs, don't try this at home kids.
This is what it looks like peeled...
...which is how one eats it, cooked or shredded raw as my friend Paula Wolfert does in a Moroccan salad with lemon juice and thyme. The important thing is to get that thick ridged skin off of it.
Once the loofah is nekkid, it's time for all sorts of fun. The recipe I decided on was ridged gourd cooked in coconut milk. The recipe is quick, has minimal ingredients and tastes great... and if you can't find ridged gourd make it with zucchini or summer squash. Enough said.

Ridged Gourd Curry

Here's what to do:
 Peel, slice lengthwise and then chop crosswise 2 good sized ridged gourds (you may need 1 lb of zucchini.)
Heat 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in a skillet or kadhai.
When the oil is hot add in 1 peeled, crushed shallot. Saute it until it becomes fragrant then add in:
 1 chopped medium sized onion
 1 whole green serrano chili slit down the middle
 6 or so curry leaves
Saute everything until the onions start to soften and brown, then add in:
 1 tsp turmeric
 1 tsp of Kashmiri  chili or 1/2 tsp cayenne mixed with 1/2 tsp paprika
 The chopped ridged gourds
Salt to taste.
Cover the pan and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes or so until most of the water has been cooked off. Ridged gourds are very, very, very moist. In fact a lot of water oozes out during the cooking process so no water really needs to be added once the thing gets going.
 Once the water has evaporated add in:
  1/2 cup of thick coconut milk
Mix it well enough so that everything's warmed through, and serve it up.
  So how does this taste? Sweet and hot and creamy with a slight undertone of bitter. Just enough to keep it interesting. Also for extra bennies, ridged gourd is high in Vitamin C, zinc, iron and  magnesium. Also fiber. Hey, anything that turns into a loofah as it ages better be! Exfoliate your insides. Eat Ridged Gourd!  Anyway, this dish would be great with whatever squash is at hand, and I'm going to be trying it again  soon with zucchini. Meanwhile what else is up? Some treats for the Holiday Weekend and a secret birthday take an Indian turn. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Exfoliate the insides are a great idea!! Lovely colors.

  2. I love this veggie, Kathy..Its called Taroi in Hindi and makes an array of delectable curries. I love your simple version here.

  3. So I can scarf and buff huh? I want to try this little devil raw. Reminds me of the Seinfeld where Kramer made a salad while in the shower

  4. @Janis, you wouldn't believe all the double entendre jokes Paula made about this!

  5. You learn something new everyday.... and the curry looks devine.

  6. @Megan Carroll,
    thanks, and if you can't get ridged gourd try any squash

  7. It gets even better :). Even the skin is not wasted.

    The skin is chopped, stir fried for a couple of minutes with a dash of oil and is blended with green chilies & salt into the famous ridge gourd peel chutney, very popular in South India.

  8. @Ramki,
    Wow, I had no idea! I would love to try that. Can you send me the recipe?



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