Chinese Vegetable – Ridge Gourd with Bean Threads

Chinese Veg - 001 Ridge Gourd w Bean threads edited re-sized

When those full-flavoured spongy pieces of Ridge gourd and the bean threads slide into my mouth with each spoonful of this delicious dish, my taste-buds say “yum!”

Ridge gourds biologically are called “Luffa acutangula” and http://www.healthandbloom.com tells is their health benefits include:- rich dietary fiber; Vitamin C, Zinc, Iron, Riboflavin and Magnesium; low saturated fat, cholesterol and calories and this aids weight loss; a good supply of cellulose and water which helps to relieve from constipation and promote healing from piles.

Here’s a fun fact. That piece of scrubbing loofah which lightly massages and removes all the dead skin cells whilst we are under the shower comes from this humble looking vegetable.

Some comments about Ingredients

  • Ridge gourd They are a common veg all over Asia. In the West, look for them in Asian groceries. Hairy Marrow (毛瓜) or any summer squash like zucchini will be good substitutes.
  • Bean Threads. It is also known by several other names like cellophane noodles, fun si (粉絲) . They are made from mung beans.  To soften them, either soak bena threads in tap water for about 20 mins or in hot water for 2 mins and then rinsed in cold water. On their own, they possess no flavour but they adbsorb the flavour of the seasoning and stock readily.
  • Dried wood ears – They are also known as Black Fungus, and Judas’ ear. TCM believe they enhance our health (improves breathing, circulation and well-being). Since they contain a compound that inhibits clotting in blood, studies are being conducted to see their effects on prevention of strokes and heart attacks. They are very light weight and expands well. They give texture and colour to a dish but don’t interrupt the taste of other ingredients.
  • Dried Shrimp This is sun dried shrimp, shrunk to a thumbnail size. In Asia, Indonesia and Vietnam are big producers. They add a unique umami flavour to the dish. A more expensive substitute would be dried scallops. If you are allergic to seafood, don’t use either. Substitute the dried shrimp with some minced chicken or pork. Alternatively, you can leave out any kind of meat completely and derive flavours by substituting the cup of water with chicken or pork stock. Click here for a recipe for home-made chicken or click here for pork stock.  If you are vegetarian, you can substitute with vegetable stock and/or add cubes of firm tofu.

Preparation of Ingredients

The photo above illustrates how to slice a peeled Ridge Gourd to get the angular chunks. Slicing them in this manner speeds up cooking time.

Cooking the Dish

STEP 1. Heat wok over medium high heat. Add oil and heat for a minute. Add sliced shallots, cook for a minute to just soften. Dried shrimp and mushrooms are added next. Stir Fry for about 2 mins or till a slight fragrance wafts to your nose.

STEP 2. Sliced carrots, wood ears and seasoning go into the hot wok next for a quick stir fry ( see above). Photo below shows ridge gourd slices are added next. Raise heat to high.

STEP 3. Add water into the wok and cover for about 5 mins to cook the ridge gourd and carrots.

STEP 4. Once the vegetables are cooked, lift cover and lower heat. Add in the bean threads and give them all a quick stir. The bean threads will soften in a minute and absorb the colour of the sauce. Add the optional wine and sesame oil. Switch off heat and plate this dish. Served with steam rice and other complimentary dishes.

RECIPE

Serves 4 to 6 persons

Ingredients

  • 500 gm fresh Ridge Gourd (also known as Loofah)
  • half a carrot (about 70 gm)
  • 30 gm shallots
  • Chinese dried ingredients (measurements given are when they are dry.)
    • 50 gm Tanghoon (bean threads). Scissor cut into 2 sections when soft
    • 25 gm dried wood ears. Once they have fully expanded, remove hard bits and cut into smaller pieces
    • 10 gm dried shitake mushrooms, cut into smaller pieces
    • 10 gm dried shrimp
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • few dashed of ground pepper
  • about 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil

Optional

  • 1 Tbsp Shao Xin wine
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Method:

Preparation.

1. Chinese dried ingredients. Wash and soak each ingredient separately to re-hydrate each ingredient. Takes about 1 hour (to hasten this process, use hot water). Once they are fully hydrated, prepare as described.

2. Meanwhile, wash and peel all 3 vegetables. Cut the Ridge Gourd in an angled manner; carrot into rings and then halved; and shallots into thin slices.

3. Gather cooking utensils, measuring spoons and other ingredients.

Cooking

1. Heat wok over medium high heat. Add oil and heat for a minute. Add sliced shallots, cook for a minute to just soften. Dried shrimp and mushrooms are added next. Stir Fry for about 2 mins or till a slight fragrance wafts to your nose.

2. Sliced carrots, wood ears and seasoning go into the hot wok next for a quick stir fry before ridge gourd slices and water is poured in. Raise heat to high and cover to cook for about 5 mins .

3. Lift cover, lower heat and add the bean threads. Stir and continue to cook till bean threads soften and absorb the colour of the sauce. Optional wine and sesame oil are each drizzled in next. Switch off the heat.

4. Plate and serve this power packed vegetable dish with other dishes and steamed rice.

Serving Suggestions

Quick Meal. Accompany this dish with bowls of Chinese Soup and fragrant Thai Jasmine Rice.

Chinese Soups

1. Jin Hua Ham and Winter Melon Soup. Click here.

2. Lotus Root, Peanut and Pork Ribs. Click here

3. Radishes and Dried Squid. Click here.

4. Pork Stomach with Peppercorn. Click here

5. Tang Ho with Fishballs. Click here

6. Watercress and Red Dates. Click here.

Expecting Company? Some suggestions are listed below. What are their dietary preferences? Remind your helper to use those ingredients that are already in the fridge, freezer or larder first.

Seafood dishes

1. Dry Assam Seafood. Click here

2. Fried Fish with Fermented Black Bean Sauce. Click here.

3. Stuffed You Tiao (Baked).  Click here.

Meat dishes

1. Beef Rendang (spicy). Click here

2. Singapore Curry Chicken (spicy). Click here.

3. Quick Braised Sea cucumber, Chicken and Mushroom. Click here.

4. Cha Siu or BBQ Pork. Click here.

5. Pari Pari style Chicken Wings. Click here.

Vegetable Dishes

1. Spinach in Broth with 3 types of eggs. Click here.

2. Pork, Spinach and Egg Stir Fry. Click here.

3. Shanghai Cabbage with Oyster Sauce & Garlic. Click here.

4. Ladies Fingers with Dried Sambal Prawns. Click here.

Dessert

Besides seasonal fruits and ice cream, any one of on the list below may be prepared a day or two ahead.

1. Almond Jelly + Longans Click here.

2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.

3. Sweet Potato Dessert Soup. Click here.

4. Sago Pudding. Click here.

5. Orange Agar Agar. Click here.

6. Caramel Custard. Click here.

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