Luffa Fish Fillet Tofu Stew (丝瓜鱼片豆腐煲 Si Gua Yu Pian Dou Fu Bao)
September 18, 2021  Print
As I mentioned in my Chinese Long Bean Salad and Sauteed Zucchini Tomato posts, we have been enjoying freshly harvested produce right from our two organic garden beds the past few months. Before moving to Texas, we mostly stayed in urban dwellings. First we were in New York City and Jersey City. Then we moved to the Northern Virginia/DC area. Although we tried to grow some veggies and fruits in our townhouse patio in Northern Virginia, it did not turn out well despite the amount of effort and money we poured into it. Having an organic garden that’s bountiful is such a refreshing and rewarding experience for us. We found our garden has quite a healing and calming effect on our mental health in this crazy pandemic.
Sometimes our family of four will just walk around in our backyard and observe the various tiny animals making a home in our garden. Our garden beds have become quite a mini-ecosystem. Thankfully I do not have any phobias towards amphibians and small reptiles, which is surprising considering I grew up in mostly urban areas. I especially love seeing tree frogs and lizards resting on the plants because I know they are helping to protect our garden from harmful insects. My husband and I have also involved our kids in caring for the plants in the garden beds. They love to water the plants, point out fruits and veggies hiding behind leaves, and carry the basket of fresh produce from the garden home to our kitchen.
Now back to the main topic, today’s post is about another veggie that we have been enjoying from our garden beds, luffa (丝瓜 Si Gua), also known as Chinese okra, ridge gourd, sponge gourd, or silk gourd. I got some seeds from a good friend (luffa seeds are available also on Amazon) and planted two on June 20th, the same day as our other trellis plants, Chinese long bean and Chinese cucumber. Perhaps due to the Texas heat and humidity (likely great conditions for luffa), the two luffa plants have gone crazy in terms of growth. They have grown past our long beans and even climbed onto our okra plants on the other side of the bed.
Since it’s our first time planting luffa, we didn’t have too much experience. We let the first few fruits grow too long before picking them. Some of the flesh had become fibrous and inedible. So we have since learned to judge the maturity of the luffa by its skin. Our luffa fruits have long ridges along the entire fruit, which is probably why some cultures call it ridge gourd. For luffa with ridges, if no fiber comes off when pressing against the ridge, the luffa is young and tender. If long, hard fibers separate from the ridge when pressed, the luffa is already too fibrous. For smooth luffa, the skin should be smooth and slightly spongy when pressed. Use the same rule when picking your luffa from Asian grocery stores. Mature luffa can be used as a sponge due to its fibrous nature. I remember my grandmother would purposefully leave a few luffa fruits on the vine to dry and use them later as scrubbing sponges for either cleaning or bathing.
I have tried a few different ways to cook luffa. I will share some of my go-to ones. Luffa flesh has a silky and soft texture and tastes mildly sweet. Thanks to its extremely versatile nature, it does well on its own or with other veggies and proteins. You can make it into a salad or soup. You can also stir-fry or braise it with other veggies and proteins. Pretty much you can’t really go wrong with it. Because luffa has an extremely silky and soft texture, however, it might not fit everyone’s taste. I still encourage you to give it a try since luffa has many beneficial nutrients.
This stew is full of umami and nutritional value and it is super easy and quick to make. With only three main ingredients, it takes about half an hour in total. You can either treat it as a soup or as a standalone dish.
Low Carb; Gluten Free; Pescatarian Friendly
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
- 1 lb luffa fruits 1 (one long or two medium length ones)
- 1 block of medium or firm tofu
- 2 fish fillets 2
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger
- 2 green onions
- ~2 teaspoon dried shrimp 3
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (reduce by half if using table salt)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ~3 cups water
- Cut the fish fillets at an angle into thin slices and put the slices in a bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon of ground white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine to the bowl and mix well. Let it marinate for 20 minutes.
- Peel off all the outer green skin from the luffa. Then cut the luffa into large chunks. (I like to cut it at an angle and rotate the luffa either 90 or 180 degree after each cut.)
- Slice the tofu into 1-inch long pieces. Peel and mince the ginger. Cut the green onions in small pieces. Rinse and immerse the dried shrimp in water.
- In a medium sauce pan or clay pot (at least 2 quarts), heat the 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil under medium-high heat. When the oil is getting warm, add the minced ginger, stirring quickly. When the ginger is slightly golden brown, add the chopped luffa chunks, stirring frequently for about 2 to 3 minutes until half cooked.
- Add the tofu and around 3 cups of water (depending on the size of your pot). The water should barely cover the luffa and tofu. Put the softened dried shrimp into the pot. Cover the lid and wait for the liquid to boil.
- When the liquid boils, lower the heat to low and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. When the time is up, raise the heat back to medium-high and add the marinated fish fillets. Gently stir for a minute or two until the fillets are cooked through. Turn off the heat. Add the other 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt (or 1/4 teaspoon of table salt) and mix well. Serve hot.
- The luffa I grew in my raised garden bed is the kind with ridges along the length of the fruit. But the kind with smooth skin works well too. There are many names for luffa, such as Chinese okra, ridge gourd, sponge gourd, silk gourd. Make sure the luffa is young, otherwise the flesh will be too fibrous to eat.
- Here, I used previously frozen swaii fish fillets. But any mild-flavored fish fillets, such as tilapia, flounder, and basa work just as well.
- You can get dried shrimp in pretty much any grocery store these days. I got mine from H-E-B.
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