Hairy melon or hairy gourd (pronounced 'jeet gwa or mo gwa' in Cantonese...let that name sink in a little. It is the brother to the Chinese winter-melon and is eaten in its immature stage. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this melon has a cooling effect on the body so a good time to enjoy it is during the summer months, which really hits the spot in hot, humid Hong Kong. Hairy gourd can be used in soups, braised, sautéed or stuffed because of its versatility and mild flavour. If you run your fingers along the skin, there is a prickly fuzz but remember that the fuzzier the better when choosing the perfect one. The skin needs to be removed and although most people would use a potato peeler, I prefer using the top side of a small pairing or serrated knife to scrape it off. Once I make a quick job of the skin, I cook those gourds, seeds and all!
The possibilities are quite endless as they are such a firm gourd that even boiling them in Cantonese 'long-boil' soups for 3 hours merely softens them but would not stop them from retaining their shape and texture. In this recipe, I just used what I happened to have at home which were some mud-carp paste, glass noodles, ginger and a generous amount of diced spring onion and parsley to make a dish that goes nicely with a steaming bowl of mixed red and brown rice. Stay tuned for the dates and times of my summer cooking demos because this will be one of the fabulous Chinese dishes we will be creating!