Discovering new fruits and vegetables is one of the most exciting things about shopping at the Farmers’ Market every week. This past week at the Farmers’ Market, I came across a vegetable I had never encountered before: sing gua. Vicki Fan and Kazuto Matsusaka of Beacon, an Asian café in Culver City, were doing a Chef Demo at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, and one of their recipes featured sing gua. Sing gua (also known as Chinese squash, Chinese okra, silk squash, or luffa) looks like a long, bumpy cucumber. It is a warm weather crop with a season from June through November. It tastes similar to zucchini but is slightly sweeter. Before cooking, peel the bumpy ridges off the vegetable; some people prefer to peel the entire vegetable. When cooked, sing gua stays firmer on the outside but gets soft on the inside, unlike zucchini that gets very soft all around. It cooks fairly quickly, and the inside is spongy looking and soaks up other ingredients and flavors well. Farmer Xiong Pao Her likes using sing gua in stir fry or soup. He also suggests cooking sing gua with meat, onion, cilantro, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, and soy sauce. Look for sing gua at the Hmong farmers and Asian vegetable grower’s stands at all four of the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets.
Here is Fan and Matsusaka’s sing gua recipe. They are also opening a new restaurant in Culver City, The Point, around October 8. It will be open for breakfast and lunch, and feature create-your-own salads in addition to paninis and wraps.
Sing Gua Salad
with Ginger, Garlic,
and Redwood Hill Feta Cheese
(4 small appetizer portions)
1/2 Tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon Canola oil
2 pounds Chinese sing gua (aka Chinese okra, silk squash, luffa)
4 ounces Redwood Hill feta cheese
Salt and pepper
Pine nuts optional
Peel hard edges of sing gua and discard.
Cut into chunks or thick slices.
In wok, heat canola oil over moderate heat.
Add ginger and garlic, being careful not to burn garlic.
Add sing gua and sauté just until sing gua is soft.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat.
Place on plates and grate feta over it.
Garnish with toasted pine nuts.
Recipe courtesy of Kazuto Matsusaka and Vicki Fan