We feature a different seasonal ingredient and recipe in each of our Market Watch columns. Without further ado:
Sponge Gourd 勝瓜
Summer is the best time for all sorts of melons or gourds, and the sponge gourd is one of the most unique in texture and versatile in usage. The sponge gourd was originally called 絲瓜 see1 gwah1 or “silk gourd,” but because 絲 see1 sounds like the character for “lose” in Cantonese, people started calling it 勝瓜 sing3 gwah1 or “win gourd” — which is now its more widely known name — instead.
The sponge gourd is best known for its pillowy texture and refreshing sweetness. “It has more of a delicate taste,” says 三妹 sahm6 mui6 “Sister Three”, a wet market vendor with over 30 years of experience. “So it pairs well with seafood, like shrimp. It’s also a great addition to an otherwise rich soup.”
The sponge gourd is also very easy to spot, with its ridges, long shape and dark green color. “The key is to pick the straight and never the curvy ones. The ridges should also be straight.” says Sister Three. “This indicates a good amount of sunshine and nutrition.” And fun fact — loofah sponge is made of this vegetable!
Tips and Tricks
How you peel is everything. Sponge gourds can be cooked in many different ways, but only if you peel them right. You want to avoid soft and mushy sponge gourds. If the plan is to stir-fry, peel lengthwise but leave some skin between each peel, so it’ll withstand the heat better. For broths or steaming, however, take off the skin completely to highlight its creamy texture.
Cut wisely. For stir-frys, cut into squares or rectangles. But for broths or steaming, roll-cut the gourd so you get more of that soft texture in each bite.
Recipe Idea: 10-Minute Sponge Gourd and Shrimp Stir-Fry
Stir-fry sponge gourd with seafood to bring out the delicate flavors in both ingredients. A quick and easy option is a sponge gourd and prawn stir-fry 勝瓜炒蝦仁 sing3 gwah1 chau2 hah1 yun4. Feel free to switch the prawn with squid, fish cutlets or shellfish.
What you’ll need:
- Sponge gourd
- Fresh prawns
- Ginger or garlic
- Cooking wine
- Corn flour
- Peel sponge gourd lengthwise but leave some skin in between each peel. The peeled gourd should look like it has stripes. Cut into squares or rectangles.
- De-shell and dry out your prawns. Slice ginger or garlic.
- Mix corn flour well with a bit of water in a small bowl and put aside for later use.
- Add oil to your wok or pan over high heat, and stir-fry ginger or garlic until fragrant. Add sponge gourd and season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for a couple minutes, and remove from heat.
- Add oil over high heat. Put prawns in wok and season with salt and pepper. Stir-fry until there’s a slight sear, and return sponge gourd into wok. Add cooking wine and cover with lid for one to two minutes.
- Carefully pour in the corn flour mix, and stir quickly to thicken the liquid. This will give you a flavorful sauce. Taste and add more salt to your liking.
三妹菜檔 sahm1 mui6 choy3 dawng3 “Sister Three Vegetable Stall”
Stall 43, Shui Wo Street Wet Market, Kwun Tong.