May 25, 2013

OPO – Long Squash

Upo - Long Squash
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Opo is an Asian squash similar to a zucchini with a very mild flavor. Opo is from the gourd family and is native to the cuisines of China and Southeast Asia. In addition to Opo, other names commonly referred to for this squash are: bottle gourd, calabash, Italian edible gourd, long fruited gourd, long melon, long squash, peh poh, woo lo kua, hu lu gua, New Guinea bean, Tasmania bean, snake gourd, suzza melon, or zuzza. The name given to this squash in other countries include: yugao (Japanese), po gua (Cantonese), kwa kwa or hu gua (Chinese), opo (Filipino), cucuzzi or cucuzza (Italian), bau (Vietnamese), and dudhi or lauki (Indian). In Hawaii it is called opo or Chinese long squash. You will find many backyard gardeners here growing Chinese long squash, a squash that is pale green with white flesh, and can grow up to several feet in length. Chinese long squash is especially plentiful in the summer months here on Moloka'i, and is very popular with the Filipino community.

Popular cooking methods for this type of squash include grilling, roasting, baking, stir-frying, and stewing. The squash can be seasoned with a variety of items, and generally absorbs the flavors of other ingredients when it is used in a soup, stew, or casserole. It can also be stuffed and baked, or cooked with yellow lentils, tomatoes and spices, as they do in India. 
Opo's skin is edible, as are the vegetable's seeds, but people usually peel opo and cut out the seeds and pithy inside. 

Recently at a golfing potluck lunch at Ironwood golf course I had a dish prepared using long squash and Spam. I actually like Spam in certain dishes, like in musubi, but this long squash/Spam soup was so ono, and very local (recipe below). Besides having a lot of fiber, opo provides vitamins A, C, B vitamins – niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and if that’s not enough, it also provides calcium, iron and potassium! Select firm squash that has evenly-textured skin, free of wrinkles. Upo can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Opo Recipes:
Opo Squash Soup
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Opo Squash Soup  (Tabungao)
This delicious Filipino recipe is the most common recipe for opo here on Moloka'i. Other nationalities also enjoy soups with opo,  adding fish, or shrimp instead of pork or chicken, and the addition of lemon grass, sesame oil, and local spices for seasoning.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup canola oil for frying
1 1/2 pounds fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or pork, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 whole bay leaf, ripped in half
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
6 roma tomatoes, cut into chunks
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled, and minced fine
1 tablespoon minced ginger
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam or patis)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1- 2 pound small opo (long squash), peeled, seeded, and cut lengthwise, then cut into 1/4" slices (4 cups of cut squash)
cilantro for garnish (optional)

Procedure:
Heat a 6 quart pot or wok with cover. Add canola oil and heat until almost smoking. Add pork or chicken and stir fry. Brown and cook until medium well done, about 10 minutes on high heat. Season with salt, pepper, and bay leaf while frying. Add onions, tomato, and garlic. Continue to stir fry until vegetables are translucent and wilted. Add additional oil if needed. Add 4 cups of water to pot, cover and bring meat to a boil then lower heat to simmer. Simmer until meat is tender, about 20 minutes. Add fish sauce, soy sauce, and white vinegar to soup. Add squash to pot and cover. Simmer until squash is soft, about 20 minutes more. Add more pepper and fish sauce to adjust to your taste. Serve with white rice on the side or in the soup. Makes 4-6 servings depending on whether you serve it as a first course or main course.

Note: I usually use chicken, dark meat, 2 wings, 2 drum bones, and 2 thighs. Leave the bones in the wok until stock is cooked, then remove the meat and bones, cut the meat into bite sized pieces and discard the bones, return chicken meat to stock, add the squash, fish sauce, soy sauce and cook for 20 minutes and serve with rice. The bones add flavor.

Sari Sari
Filipino food is comfort food, family-style food, food that Hawaii has been enjoying for 100 years. Filipinos love to eat vegetables. Sari Sari is a favorite Filipino soup/stew simmered with vegetables that are familiar in Filipino cooking. In Tagalog (an ancient native language in the Philippines), the term sari sari is roughly equivalent to "any kine", meaning whatever you've got; tomatoes, onion, eggplant, long beans, bitter melon, pumpkin, winged beans, opo long squash, okra, sequa (sponge gourd), or swamp cabbage (a water spinach common in Southeast Asian dishes). Prawns, squid, fish, pork belly or lechon (crispy roast pork) are then added to create this flavorful dish seasoned with garlic, ginger and fish sauce.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger, peeled, minced
2-3 tablespoons patis (Filipino fish sauce)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups chicken broth
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 long Japanese eggplants, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound long beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium bitter melon, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1/4 pound small shrimp, peeled, deveined, or cooked whole, with or without the head on
1 pound crispy roast pork, 1 ½-inch chunks

Procedure:
In a large pot over medium heat; sauté onion, garlic and ginger in oil. Add in patis, vinegar, tomato paste, salt and broth. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Add tomatoes, eggplant and long beans. Cover pot; simmer stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender (about 10 minutes). Add bitter melon and shrimp; cook until shrimp are just pink (about 2 minutes). Taste to adjust seasoning by adding salt or additional fish sauce. Add roast pork and gently stir until heated through. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Spam & Pork Belly
Long Green Squash Soup
I first had this soup at a potluck lunch up at Ironwood Golf Course. This is a truly local recipe, and real comfort food, thanks Bruce.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 pound pork belly, sliced thin into bite size pieces
1-12 ounce can of Spam, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 inch slice of fresh ginger, smashed
1 medium long green squash (opo), peeled, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon dried shrimp
4 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and cut into quarters
1- 14 ounce can chicken broth
4 1/4 cups water, enough water to equal 6 cups with the chicken broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 green onions, chopped, for garnish

Procedure:
Heat a soup pot over medium high heat and add oil. Add the pork belly slices and brown like you would bacon, only not crisp. Now add the Spam and ginger and cook for 2 minutes more. Drain most of the oil from the pot, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender about 15 – 20 minutes. Garnish each serving with chopped green onions, and serve with white rice on the side, sprinkled with Tamari sauce, and sprinkled with nori fumi furikake rice seasoning. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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