Trái bàu translates to calabash, bottle gourd, long melon or opo squash. It’s a very common vegetable used in Vietnamese cuisine. The shape is cylindrical and the color is light green. It’s best harvested while still young. It can be boiled, stir-fried or added to soups. The texture is very similar to zucchini; the flesh is very soft, spongy and tastes mildly sweet.
Whenever I look at calabash, it makes me think of a very nice lady named Trần and her lovely family. Last year, I got to meet Trần through PhamFatale.com. She read my article about the dragon fruit that I bought at the market and she kindly offered to give me dragon fruit trees her mother grows as a hobby. Trần’s mom has magical hands and is a very talented gardener. While visiting their garden in San Jose, I noticed beautiful, giant calabash growing on vines hung over a trellis. I took a few home with me and they were the some of the best I’ve ever had. I’m going to try and to grow some of my own this year, and I’ll let you know how it goes.
For this particular version I made a quick vegetable stir-fry, using miso and honey. In honor of the upcoming Asian New Year, I’m determined to eat vegetarian for a week and at the same time, shed a few pounds. This recipe was a great way to kick off my challenge.
1. Info for Bottle Gourd Recipe with Tofu
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 30 mins
- Servings: 6
- Calories: 90 kcal
2. Ingredients for Bottle Gourd Recipe with Tofu
- 1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
- 3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
- 1 (1-inch) chunk fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 large bottle gourd
- 1 (10-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can whole sweet baby corn, drained, then cut in half, lengthwise
- 2 teaspoons miso paste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ to 1 cup vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 tablespoon dried fried shallots (store-bought)
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
- Trim and peel the gourd. Slice it in half, lengthwise and cut horizontally into 1”-chunk.
- Cut the baby corn into thirds. Set aside.
- Cut the tofu into ½-inch slices. In a wok, heat the canola oil. Pan-fry the slices on both sides until golden. The tofu should have a nice fried outer crust and still be moist inside. Transfer the tofu onto paper towels. Allow to cool a little. As soon as the tofu is not too hot to handle, cut each slice into 1”-squares.
- In the same wok, add the ginger and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add the baby corn and straw mushrooms and stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Add the tofu. Toss for a minute, then add the bottle gourd, miso paste and honey. Stir fry for a few minutes until soft and tender. Add about ½ cup of vegetable broth (or water). Cook over high heat, then cover with a lid, so the water doesn’t evaporate too fast (keep an eye on the level of moisture so the dish doesn’t burn). Lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Once the water evaporates completely, check the softness of the vegetable (it should be tender and look a little translucent). Add more water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked. Add the baby corn, straw mushrooms and dried shallots. Finish with black pepper and garnish with cilantro. Stir well. Cover until you’re ready to serve.
- Serve with jasmine rice and nước chấm dipping sauce. Eat with chopsticks!