Luffa is one of those vegetables that I’ve been eating occasionally, without ever really knowing what it actually is. Ironically, I’ve also been passing by it regularly in the local markets, without knowing that it was luffa!
My recent discovery of what it was, buying it and cooking it, happened all at once!
It is also called the Sponge Gourd and a member of the cucumber family. Like the tomato, luffa is a fruit that is eaten like vegetable. It is popular in numerous Asian cuisines, including Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Myanmar. (I learned from the Myanmar people that ‘Myanmarese’ is not really a word they are used to hearing or using!)
And if you’re wondering, it is indeed the very same vegetable that gives us loofah sponges, once they mature and only the tough fibres remain.
When peeled and cooked, luffa becomes soft and spongey and tastes similar to zucchini. It is rich in Vitamins A, B and C, and contains minerals like Potassium, Manganese and Copper.
Inspired by the luffa dishes I’ve enjoyed in Chinese restaurants and ‘chap fan’ (mixed rice) stalls, here is my interpretation of enjoying the benefits of this fascinating vegetable.
Once cooked, this dish should be eaten as promptly as possible, as the glass noodles drink up the gravy like kittens on milk!
If you’re not sure what to do with leftover luffa, cut into slices and place over your eyes for 10 minutes to relax and reduce puffiness. Don’t you just love multi-purpose veggies?
Luffa with Corn, Shitake and Glass Noodles
A nutritious, comforting and easily digestible Asian mix of vegetables and glass noodles in a thick translucent gravy. Best eaten with rice.
- 2/3 of a large loofah, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup tofu puffs, diced
- 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 small block (1/2 cup) of firm tofu, diced
- 1 cob of corn
- 1 cup mung bean noodles ('Tung Hoon' or 'Soh Hoon'
- 1 bulb garlic, chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch stirred into 2 cups water
- 2 1/2 tbsp soysauce (wheat-free for gluten-free option)
- 2 tsp mirin
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp pink salt
- 3/4 tsp brown rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp cooking oil
- Pepper to taste
- Step 1 Bring 1 liter of water to a boil and cook mung bean noodles for 3 minutes.
- Step 2 Strain the noodles and keep the water for cooking the corn and mushrooms.
- Step 3 Rinse the noodles under the tap until cool. This will prevent them from sticking together. Keep aside.
- Step 4 Cook corn and mushrooms for 15 minutes. Drain water and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
- Step 5 In a wok, heat the oil and cook garlic for 3-4 minutes.
- Step 6 Add loofah, tofu puffs and tofu and cook for 3 minutes.
- Step 7 Cut kernels off the cob, and cut mushrooms into strips. Turn off the heat and add both into the mix, along with pepper to taste.
- Step 8 Serve immediately with rice.