Monday, May 28, 2012

Mystery Produce of the Week: Opo Squash

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Also known as hulu (葫蘆), opo squash is popular in Chinese dishes and often consumed in soup or stuffed with meat and steamed. It is prepared by peeling its skin and scooping out its seeds (although the seeds can be edible if the squash is fresh and young). It has a mild, sweet flavor. When cooked, it is delicate and soft without being mushy or mealy.

Since I can't stuff it with meat, I made soup. The challenge here is to make a flavorful soup without using chicken stock. Since this squash is very mild, it can be a bit flavorless without chicken stock. Instead of substituting with vegetable stock, I decided to boil it with water and shredded cabbage to add sweetness and some vegetarian chicken broth powder (still haven't figured out what that is exactly). I cooked the cabbage low and slow until it almost disintegrated in the soup and then added the squash and simmered for another 15 minutes.

Finally, to make sure it has some taste, I added.... bitter melon greens. Yes, those taste bitter. But at least you can't say the soup is bland! I like the fact that the bitter melon greens added a bit of depth to the soup, but I can see why some people won't find it palatable. Bitter melon is... an acquired taste. Frankly, I'm even not sure that I've acquired it yet. You can always leave it out or add some other dark greens.

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