Thursday, August 26, 2010

Goya (Bitter Gourd)

When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was "The BFG" by Roald Dahl. The Big Friendly Giant of the title, due to his friendly distaste for crunching up children, was forced to subsist on a vegetarian diet of a horrid-tasting vegetable known as the Snozzcumber. I can't help but think that Roald Dahl must have encountered the Okinawan bitter gourd, goya, at some point prior to creating the Snozzcumber. With its bitter taste and warty green skin, it fits the bill perfectly, and though I've never seen a giant one, surely what's possible for the zucchini is possible for the goya as well.
The inside of the goya is spongy and full of large, tough seeds. It's easily scraped out, and the vegetable is then cut in slices that are disturbingly reminiscent of curled-up grubs. Because it's so bitter, it's usually fried up and served with something that tastes better, and which the bitterness can accent, like scrambled eggs or stir-fried pork. Since it's an Okinawan vegetable, I suspect that sugar might also come into play in some recipes, though I didn't use any. I fried my goya in olive oil and soy sauce and added it to a hash of potatoes, tomatoes, okra, and egg. Even so, it was so bitter that each time I bit into a piece I had to quickly go for some egg and potato so my mouth didn't have to endure goya alone. It probably isn't a vegetable I'll be trying again any time soon, though I would be interested in ordering it at an Okinawan restaurant, just to see whether they have any secrets to make it more edible!

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