Technique Thursday: How to prepare and eat Loofah

Yes, you read that right… loofah. I had no idea that when I began eating food from all around the world, I would end up running across loofah.

Turns out, in Botswana, as well as many, many other countries, Loofah is common eats. The more I read about it, the more I realize that Loofah is not so “exotic” as I originally thought.

Whoa, now. Before you run off to your bathroom to slice and dice and cook up your loofah, let me explain.

When I say loofah is common eats, I don’t mean the dry, hay colored, scratchy, back and callous scrubber… like the one you have next to your bathtub:

Photo by Qurren

I don’t think any amount of steaming, boiling, frying, or beating could make those loofahs tender. They come from the old, crusty loofah plant, the one that’s toughened up with age.

What they actually eat is the tender, young loofah. When picked fresh, the green loofah plant is slightly softer than a cucumber and slightly crispier than a zucchini. When cooked, the flavor is mild and slightly sweet.

Photo courtesy of CloveGarden.com

This edible loofah is often called “angled luffa” or “ridged gourd” or “Chinese okra” or “tori” or “patola” (the names go on and on, depending on the country).

A few facts about Loofah:

- Loofah is thought to originate in India.
- Loofah eating is common throughout Asia and parts of Africa
- Loofah is in the cucurbit family (along with cucumbers) and is a type of gourd

Purchasing and storing Loofah:

- Check your local Asian or Indian Market.
- Look for small, heavy, evenly green produce (about 10 inches long is ideal)
- Check freshness by snapping the fin with your fingers. A crisp snap implies freshness, while a soft fin is older and better suited to your bathtub!
- Store in a cool, dry spot. Wrap in dry towels, in an airtight container for just a couple of days.

Make sure to clean the loofah before cooking. First, wash well and then peel off the tough outer ridges (you can peel off all the skin, if desired). Finally, cut on a bias for even cooking and presentation.

The loofah is versatile. Here are a few preparation ideas:

- Steam with or without stuffing (shrimp, vegetable, etc)
- Stir- fry with onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, chicken
- stew in coconut milk, or with fish or bamboo shoots

NOTE: Much of the information in this post was drawn from my uber awesome “nerd” book “The Essential Reference: Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini” by Elizabeth Schneider. Love this book!

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Comments

  1. Wow, I started reading that and thought… “Great for those times when you get hungry in the shower”.

    I think it sounds kinda good – but then I love cucumbers.

    Does it have to be cooked or is it good raw like cucumbers?

    • globaltable says:

      A snack for the shower is a great idea! :) I’m often hungry…

      I’ve read that you can eat it raw, too. The skin can be tough and bitter, so if you do eat it raw, you might peel it completely!

  2. Many Chinese restaurants in New York serve loofah, usually paired with scallops. Loofah is a popular ingredient in dishes in Taiwan, Fujian, Guangdong and Malaysia too.

  3. Hi Sasha,

    Very intriguing,this loofah! It will make for a nice treasure hunt too, in Paris’ Chinatown because I would NEVER find in in an average supermarket.

    I now have to earmark your slow cook recipes for when it gets cooler again :)
    Happy cooking!

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