Loofah soup

soup with clams
Loofah with Clams soup

You had probably used a loofah sponge in your life, in the shower perhaps, but did you know it comes from the loofah gourd which is an edible vegetable? It doesn’t taste like much on its own but in Taiwan where it is called “shi gua” 絲瓜 , it is commonly found in the local markets and it is often made into delicious soups, like Loofah with Clams soup or Loofah with Carrots and Vermicelli soup.  It is perfect for the hot summer weather as it is nourishing and replenishes fluids; and with the addition of vermicelli, it can be a meal in itself. Enjoy!

Recipe for the Loofah with Carrots and Vermicelli Soup:

1 small piece of lean pork
1 loofah
2 carrots
3 dried scallops
3 dried figs
4 dried red dates
vermicelli

Method:

  1. Rinse the dried scallops, then leave it to soak in a cup of hot water for 1 hour. Remember to keep the soaking water to add to the soup.
  2. Cut the lean pork into thin slices.
  3. Peel and cut the loofah and carrots into small chunks.
  4. Rinse the dried figs and red dates.
  5. Put all the above ingredients into a pot. Add 6 – 8 cups of water.
  6. Boil on high heat for 10 mins, then lower the heat to boil for another 50 mins.
  7.  Add vermicelli and salt to taste.

Loofah with Clams soup:   Omit the carrots, instead you add fresh clams to the pot towards the last 10 mins of the cooking process; and garnish with cut spring onions and thinly sliced ginger before serving.

Loofah with Shrimp soup: Fresh shrimp in shell may be used instead of clams.

 

Taiwanese Pickled Tomatoes

Last week I went to a wedding banquet at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei and they served this simply lovely cold tomato appetizer. It was 89 degrees outside …  this was very refreshing indeed for a hot summer day!  A fellow guest gave me her recipe for it. I went home and tried it.  It was very easy and I must say pickling really improves the flavor of the tomatoes!

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dried plum
Dried Plums

1 cup of cherry tomatoes (washed and drained)
2/3 cup of water
2 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp dried plum (話梅) (about 4 whole dried plums)
1 cup of rice vinegar
3 small and fresh mint leaves (optional)

  1. Using a sharp knife, make a plus (+) score on the side of each tomato.
  2. Fill a pot half way with water and 1/3 cup of vinegar and bring to a boil.
  3. Put the tomatoes into the pot of hot water and let them sit for 5 seconds.
  4. Drain the water, remove the skins of the tomatoes and leave them in the refrigerator to chill.
  5. In a separate pot, heat up 1/3 cup of water, rice vinegar, brown sugar and dried plums and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Allow the liquid to chill, then place the tomatoes in the liquid, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half a day.

Note:  I wanted to keep the tomato skins on, so I skipped steps 2,3 and 4