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Fruit, Vegetables and Gourds
Wax Gourd or Dong Gwa
Wax gourd is named because it looks like candle wax has been applied to the outside. It also feels waxy to the touch, although the actual skin is of deep green colour.

Wax gourd is always cooked, as the inside comprises of firm white matter similar to a melon in many respects. However, it is extremely hard and not palatable in its natural form.

It is mainly used in soups, and is one of the standard Chinese soup ingredients.

Wax gourd is cultivated outside and grows quickly over several months. It is ready to be harvested in Canton by mid July.

Most you see in wet markets are the size of large oval melons, but Ba ba grows his own and they can reach several feet in width and height.

Wax gourd is stored naturally in dry conditions, and can be kept for as long as one year. However, most are eaten within 6-months, as they do tend to go past their best if kept for longer.
Image: Wax Gourd - Click to Enlarge
Wax Gourd is nearly always used in making Chinese soup, or 'tong gay' as Cantonese call it. Tong is the word for soup and soup pots, and as such is represented by the round shapes on Mah Jong tiles.

Most Chinese go to the wet market and buy a round of the gourd perhaps 4 inches wide, and either a full or half ring. This is because once the inside has been exposed to air, it keeps badly. Even with using refrigerators and sealing, it may not last 1-week. Therefore if you buy a whole one, then you need to plan using it all quite quickly.

A basic Chinese soup is made quite quickly, and then left to simmer gently on the hob for an hour or more. Wax Gourd should be cooked for 90 minutes at least, and is cooked when it appears almost transparent.
Cantonese people usually wash the outside and then discard any seeds or pith from the inside. It is then cut into rough strips, perhaps and inch or two wide by 3 to five inches long. They can be any shape you like.

Often Chinese chefs vary the basic recipe to include optional ingredients for promoting health or helping cure illness. We will list these separately under our dedicated soups page.

A typical Chinese soup includes:

4-8 oz pork knuckle, often the neck vertebrae.
A large handful of chopped wax gourd.
A large handful of chopped potatoes.
A large handful of chopped carrots.
Salt and black pepper to taste.
Enough water to fill the soup vessel, or to cover a large saucepan by several inches.

Image: Wax Gourd cut in half - Click to Enlarge

Simmer slowly in a covered vessel for at least 90 minutes, and 2 hours is fine.

For something a little different you could add:

1. Red dates, or substitute Rose Hips in UK.
2. Long gnun, or substitute Lychee in UK.
3. A few ounces of whole and natural peanuts are often added, although these are not to my personal taste.
4. You can use other beans or pulses instead, such as haricot beans, red kidney beans, butter beans, pearl barley.
5. The Chinese add a lot of things that I doubt are available in UK. I intend to list these separately on a dedicated page, with pictures, cooking tips, and descriptions of health properties.
6. In China you can buy these at any wet market: with the bits of white bark shavings (Root actually), minute orange fruits things, various nuts, two types of twigs, thin brown roots, and countless other ingredients.
7. I personally love to add a few mushrooms, and the Chinese oval ones that look like small gray eggs are fantastic. They also add the long thin ones - both of which are described here
8. Another good ingredient are the dried wrinkly strips of beancurd that need to be soaked before use. These have beneficial qualities.
This information is as supplied by ourselves, and ably supported by our friends and various internet portals.
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