THE moment I brought this dish to my mum’s house, she said in Cantonese, “Oh, you cooked dai yee ma ga lui.”
The literal translation is “mother’s oldest sister marrying off her daughter”.
No one can explain why this dish is called such, but I suspect it is because gourds do not sound auspicious in Chinese.
Another name was given to detract from the literal transliteration of gua or qua, which sounds like death.
Hairy gourd, or fuzzy melon, is one of the vegetables that is frequently cooked in Chinese households.
Called moa qua (hairy gourd) or chi qua (festive gourd) in Cantonese, it is grown in the warmer climate of southern China and is therefore more prominently featured in Cantonese cuisine.
The skin has very fine bristles, hence its name. It is also quite similar to wax gourd, long gourd or ash gourd, all of which have smooth skin.
If hairy gourd is unavailable, you can use English gourd or chayote, courgette or zucchini, or snake gourd instead.
The fuzzy coating falls off as the fruit matures, so when choosing hairy gourd, pick the hairier ones because they are younger and sweeter.
Remember to peel the skin off before slicing as the bristles may cause irritation.
Although this dish is usually prepared with dried shrimp, you may also use anchovies to flavour the oil. You can also cook a vegan version of this dish, omitting all the animal products.
It tastes quite good on its own, although I prefer the non-vegan version.
Some versions add a bit of red fermented bean curd to give the dish a bit of colour and umami.
The shortcut idea that my wife gave me was to use pre-fried tofu skin or fu chok, which eliminated the need for deep-frying.
This not only saved time but also reduced the oil needed to fry just a handful of tofu skin.
Make sure that the gourd is cooked until soft before adding the glass noodles, which will soak up all the liquid.
Bear in mind that adding more liquid as you try to soften the gourd will cause the glass noodles to get soggy and clump together.
Add the crispy fried tofu skin last, and additional crispy fried dried shrimp may be sprinkled over the dish as a garnish.
Hairy gourd with glass noodles
2 small or 1 large hairy gourd, about 600g total
100g glass noodles
20g dried shrimps
1 cup water
3 tbsp cooking oil
30g fried tofu skin
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp chicken stock concentrate (optional)
¼ tsp white pepper
½ tsp salt to taste
½ tsp sugar to taste
Peel the skin of the hairy gourd and cut the gourd into half-centimetre-thick slices, then into julienne strips.
Soak glass noodles in cold water for 20 minutes. Cut into shorter strands with kitchen shears, then rinse and drain.
Rinse the dried shrimps in running water and then soak in a cup of clean water for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid, then roughly chop shrimps. In the reserved liquid, add the seasoning and stir to combine.
Cut fried tofu skin into 1-cm strips.
Heat oil in the frying pan and fry the dried shrimp until fragrant. Then add garlic and sauté until wilted.
Add gourd until cooked (about 10 minutes), then add seasoning liquid to simmer until gourd is soft and tender for another 5 minutes.
Toss in glass noodles to soak up most of the cooking liquid.
Finally stir in fried tofu skin and dish out immediately.
Garnish with additional crispy fried dried shrimp, if desired.
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