The loofah is also known as the ridged gourd, luffa, dish cloth gourd, or Chinese okra. It has a flavor similar to summer squash, with a cucumber like crispness.
The loofah is a gourd that is long and narrow. Most have strong ridges running lengthwise down the vegetable . Some varieties are also smooth. Buy when small, approximately 12 inches long, and when it is hard and heavy for its size.
Loofahs can also be harvested and dried to be used as a “dish cloth” or rag. Loofahs are low in calories and also contain vitamin C.
Loofah and Chicken Stir Fry
1/2 lb skinless boneless chicken breast, cut across grain into 1/8 inch thick slices
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. light soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1/2-cup chicken stock
1/2 lb. fresh angled loofah
1-cup peanut oil
3 small fresh shiitakes, stems discarded and caps sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tsp. Chinese fermented black bean paste
5 small fresh red chiles, seeded, and cut into fine julienne
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. water
1. Stir together chicken, cornstarch, and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a small bowl.
2. Stir together oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and stock in another bowl until sugar dissolves.
3. Remove ridges from loofah with a vegetable peeler, and then scrape skin lightly with a sharp small knife. Cut loofah lengthwise into 2 by 1/2 inch thick slices.
4. Heat peanut oil in a wok over moderate heat until it registers 350ºF on thermometer, then cook chicken, stirring, just until no longer pink, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon, then pour oil into a heatproof container and reserve.
5. Heat wok over high heat until a bead of water dropped onto a cooking surface evaporates immediately. Add 3 tbsp. reserved peanut oil, swirling wok to coat evenly, and heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir-fry mushrooms until lightly browned and tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add beans, chiles, garlic, and ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add loofah and toss until well coated.
6. Add stock mixture and bring to a boil. Add chicken and return sauce to a boil. Stir cornstarch mixture and add to sauce, then boil, stirring, until sauce thickens slightly and becomes translucent.
7. Serve drizzled with remaining 1/4 tsp. sesame oil.
© 2014 Chef Jennifer M. Denlinger All rights reserved
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