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!
Loofah with Carrots and Vermicelli soup
Recipe for the Loofah with Carrots and Vermicelli Soup:
1 small piece of lean pork
3 dried scallops
3 dried figs
4 dried red dates
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.
Cut the lean pork into thin slices.
Peel and cut the loofah and carrots into small chunks.
Rinse the dried figs and red dates.
Put all the above ingredients into a pot. Add 6 – 8 cups of water.
Boil on high heat for 10 mins, then lower the heat to boil for another 50 mins.
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.
My classmate from secondary school came to visit last weekend. We went up to Maokong, a mountain in Taipei to explore the tea plantations and stopped at a local restaurant for lunch. It was a lovely spring day and we were lucky to get a table on the outside balcony, overlooking the tea plantations. It was really fun catching up with her… and I was amazed to hear that she had recently started a company called HomeFoods (https://homefoodsgroup.com) – a service in Singapore that delivers fresh ingredients in the exact right proportions and easy to follow instructions to the customer’s doorstep .. to make cooking fun and easy plus you get a hot, healthy meal in minutes! It is perfect for busy people or if you wish to make a gourmet meal at home, you won’t have to spend all day hunting down all the right cuts of meats or spices. If you live in Singapore, do give it a try!
Of the dishes we ordered, my visitors loved best the uniquely Taiwan home-style dish called Tea Oil Noodles.
Tea oil noodles is really simple to make. Very thin noodles called Mian Xian (麵線) or “mee sua” are cooked quickly in boiling water and then tossed lightly in Tea Seed Oil (苦茶油), sesame oil and soy sauce. The combination of oils makes for a surprisingly fragrant and flavorful dish. Tea oil noodles is actually eaten as a breakfast food in Taiwan. I have re-created it here for my dinner tonight, to go with stir fried beef!
1 bunch of thin noodles (about a fistful)
1-2 Tbsp Tea oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Spring onions, chopped
Chili, cut into small pieces (for garnish)
Put the noodles in a pot of boiling water for 3 mins. Remove it while it is al dente.
Drain and toss the noodles with all the ingredients.
(Note: Tea Oil may be found in Asian grocery stores in Western countries or Amazon. It is usually in a slim bottle and looks like extra premium olive oil)