Luffa (Chinese Okra/ Singua) with Fresh Mushrooms 香菇炒丝瓜丝

These baby shiitake mushrooms are lighter-tasting (less earthy flavors) compared to their larger-size shiitake counterparts. They did not overpower the natural subtle sweet flavor of luffa (also known as Singua or Chinese Okra) when cooked. The other good mushroom alternative that may pair well with luffa, are beech mushrooms, that in my opinion, are also lighter in their earthy flavors when cooked.

On the day I cooked this dish, the other one was asking the reason why I like to cook luffa. Well, I have cooked many other vegetables many times but never asked this question. So I thought: he was complaining about the dish; he did not like luffa. However, I became clear-headed as I sort out my thoughts and reasons.

I do not have a special inclination towards luffa though I must admit I have cooked luffa in several different ways - steamed, in stir-fries, soups, salads. Yes it is a nutritious and healthy ingredient to cook with but so are the other vegetables and squash. I use luffa more often in summer because these are the few months that luffa is at their prime, or more accurately - very fresh and tender. Other times, luffa tend to be fibrous, so I don't even buy them. Luffa is not easily found in the grocery stores.

This Asian squash is usually only available in the Chinese grocery stores/supermarkets and in the context of this round-type of luffa, only available in the summer's farmer market. That is why I make use of their limited availability, and cook it as often as I can.

Luffa with Fresh Baby Shiitake Mushrooms 香菇炒丝瓜丝
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
Handful of fresh baby shiitake mushrooms
2 medium-size luffa, peeled then prepare juliennes/thin strands
1 tsp light soy sauce
Pinch of salt and ground white pepper, to taste

Directions: To prepare thin luffa strands, julienne luffa from the outside to the softer seeded center. When it is becomes harder to julienne the soft center, slice/chop the softer seeded center to bite-size similar to size of baby shiitake mushrooms. Blanch the luffa julienne (thin strands) for just 10 seconds, dish out and set aside. Saute mushrooms for a few minutes, then add garlic and fry with the mushrooms. Add light soy sauce and fry till mushrooms are cooked and tender. Add the luffa pieces and fry with the mushrooms till luffa are just cooked (overcooking may lead to luffa pieces oxidizing, turning brown). Pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Serve the mushrooms and luffa on the bed of luffa julienne (thin strands).

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