…would still be a crazy looking vegetable. But oh, so tasty!
My in-laws call it turai, which is what I called it before I knew there was another name. When I saw some at my local farmer’s market, I asked one of the vendors and she called it sinqua (which means “silk gourd”). I found that it was also called Chinese Okra when I watched an episode of Chopped, after which I felt mildly, and temporarily, superior because I knew how to cook it and none of the contestants had ever seen it before!
Interestingly enough, it is also called luffa and is where we get the loofahs to use as kitchen sponges or to scrub ourselves smooth. The plant is left on the vine until the skin turns yellow, allowed to dry completely, then peeled. The seeds are then shaken out and voila! You have a skin scrubber!
I’m much more interested in the edible version. Needless to say, I had never experienced this vegetable until I tasted it at my in-laws’ house, but it has become one of my favorite veggies. Sometimes my father-in-law will get some at the farmer’s market and make it when he knows I will be there for dinner :). The recipe below is for the spongy zucchini-like inside of the vegetable, but my father-in-law also makes a fantastic chutney from the skin. I haven’t learned how to make that and one of his amazing instant pot recipes chicken magic…yet.
When choosing a turai, look for unblemished gourds with even coloring and a firm but slightly spongy texture between the ridges. If it is too firm, it may be slightly woody and will make a great exfoliator, but it won’t be too great for the taste buds. Some are quite large (see picture above), but I really just look for one that is mostly straight and looks fresh.
Turai should have a silky texture and slightly sweet flavor when cooked; if it turns out bitter it may be under- or overripe, or it might have sat out too long; make sure to peel and chop it just before cooking. I made some a couple of weeks ago that was so bitter that I threw it out–so disappointing! However, that rarely happens and the next batch I made was perfect.
If you’re in the mood to try something new, this is a deliciously wonderful start. I like turai best when it is piping hot and mixed with a little rice. My mouth is watering as I type. Better make some soon!
- 2-3 Tbsp. coconut oil
- 1/3 tsp. jeera mix
- 1/2 medium-large yellow onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, cut into large pieces
- 3-4 Thai chilies, sliced in half lengthwise
- 2 large turai/sinqua/Chines Okra/luffa (about 4 cups chopped)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/3 tsp. haldi
- Slice onions and Thai chilies and cut up garlic. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a medium size pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add jeera and allow it to pop for about 30 seconds. Add sliced onions and stir well. Adjust the heat so that the onions cook but do not brown or burn.
- While the onions cook, prepare the turai. You don’t want to do this too early because it may become bitter if it sits peeled too long. First, rinse the turai under cool water. Cut off the ends, peel off the ridges (I peel off all of the skin, but you can eat the softer parts between the ridges if you want to) and chop into bite-size pieces. You can leave the seeds in unless they are very hard (in which case you should toss them out).
- When the onions are mostly cooked through and are beginning to look translucent, add the garlic and chilies. Cook for a minute or two.
- Add the chopped turai, haldi and salt. Stir well and then cover tightly.
- Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- At this point, check to see how much liquid has released–if it is too “soupy,” remove the lid and allow to cook uncovered.
- Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the turai has broken down completely and texture is soft. Taste for salt and add a bit more if needed.
- Serve over some rice and enjoy!
This post is linked to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival.