Thursday, November 4, 2010

Chayote salad + tofu shirataki noodles

Whoa, another winner.  Two, actually.  I was half expecting my whole VeganMoFo to go mostly the way of my bat nuts post in September.  Luckily, I was wrong about that!  So far this month I've loved everything I've posted.  Though there are many more strange and wonderful things in store...

Wikipedia has this to say about chayote:  "The chayote (Sechium edule), also known as christophene, vegetable pear, mirliton, choko, starprecianté, citrayota, citrayote (Ecuador and Colombia), chuchu (Brazil), chow chow (India) or pear squash is an edible plant that belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae along with melons, cucumbers and squash."  It is said to be a good source of amino acids and Vitamin C.

It originated, apparently, in South America, and has made its way across the world to the Orient, where it is a big hit, and no wonder.  I found it utterly delicious, both raw and briefly cooked.  The Wikipedia article says it has a bland flavour raw, but I didn't find this with mine; it had a definitely pleasant, somewhat grassy, sweet taste, so much so that I debated whether to blanch it or not, and after having done so am convinced it wouldn't have made much difference either way. 

Here's what it looks like whole:

One popular name for it is Buddha's fist, because sometimes this bottom part can look like a clenched fist.  Personally, I found it more like something out of Little Shop of Horrors, but maybe that's just me. 

Here's what it looks like sliced in half.  I, uh, really have nothing to say about this except that (1) most images show it sliced on the opposite axis; and (2) the seed is edible.

So, yeah, on to the salad.  I had a lovely mis-en-place, but forgot to take a picture of it.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, what's in it, vegetable-wise is:

mo qua
snow peas

My recipe, such as it is, is based on this one, which only calls for chayote and carrots.  But my additions were great, in my opinion!

I shredded the first three items with this handy gadget:

I've had it for several weeks now and it is rapidly overtaking my potato ricer as Queen of Gadgets in my house. 

So shred the vegetables, blanch them briefly--I mean briefly, like for 30 seconds--in boiling water, not all together, but one vegetable at a time so you get it just right, then drain them and rinse under cold water to stop them cooking.  The vegetables need not be cold for this salad, but you don't want them mushy.

Meanwhile, if you're having this on noodles, you can cook them.  Today I used tofu shirataki noodles.  Yes, these are the noodles of lore, the great dieting discovery, noodles with no calories (or at least in the tofu version, very few calories).  They come in water packed like this:

Here's the nutritional info:

As I mentioned in my previous post about the plain shirataki noodles, right out of the package they are really disgusting, with a strong, fishy flavour.  But all you need to do to make them edible and delicious is boil them for two or three minutes.  The fishy flavour totally disappears, I promise.  Plus, you really can't imagine when eating them that they're so lo-cal.  They go down like any other noodles.  The difference between the tofu version and the plain version is mainly one of colour and texture: they're whiter and a little softer, more like wheat noodles than bean thread noodles.  Here's what they look like, cooked:

Finally, the last ingredient: tofu.  The original recipe calls for "five-spice tofu" but I'm not a big fan of five-spice, so I dipped slices of firm tofu in soy sauce and microwaved them for two minutes on one side, one and a half minutes on the other:

...and then finely sliced the slices.  So pretty!

Putting the salad together is a snap.  Just mix the noodles with a bit of sesame oil, salt, and white pepper, and top with the vegetable-tofu mixture also very lightly seasoned with sesame oil, salt, and pepper.  It's so good!  Frankly, I think all the vegetables would be interchangeable with other ones, and, for example, zucchini, cucumber, and sweet potato would work just as well--


  1. The salad looks delicious! I agree, raw tofu shirataki noodles taste horrendous, so I second your suggestion to cook them first haha.

  2. I have always wanted to try a chayote. I was intimidated because I never knew what to do with it though. Your dish looks great and has convinced me to try one.

  3. I'm going to turn "bat nuts" into slang for "bad". Whenever something goes awry or if I don't like something, I'm going to be all, "that's totally bat nuts!"

    What is NOT bat nuts is this recipe. I've only used chayote (that IS an interesting photo) once or twice and you've inspired me to seek it out again, plus Mark loves those tofu noodles and will eat anything I put on top of them. Everyone wins. And that's not bat nuts.

  4. So what exactly do you call that gadget? If I wanted one, what would I ask for?

    Every time I go to the Asian grocery I pick up a bag of shiratake, then put it down again. Maybe next time I'll get it into my cart and make this salad. It looks so good.

    Now about that photo. I hope you don't get reported ... for anything. Vegetables can certainly be ... exotic.

  5. I've never even heard of chayote! It's, um, interesting looking. The salad looks beautiful, though.

  6. Bat nuts: bad and more than a little creepy...

    Andrea, I think that tool is just called a "julienne peeler." I picked it up in the gadget section of one of those big "bed & bath" stores. Now I use it nearly every day.

    The photo, yes...totally unintentional, I swear. Please don't report anyone...

  7. What an informative post.I just LOVE THAT photo.

  8. I've always wanted to try Chayote just cuz the name is so cool. I know you're into arty stuff like Milton & Tennyson, is the photo some sort of Georgia O'Keefe homage?

  9. I've often seen those chayote, but never thought of trying one...I'm rethinking that now. But I DO have to try those noodles.

    Your food looks so elegant; you really should open a 5-star vegan restaurant.

  10. Those noodles look great! I was introduced to the chayote last year, but never really figured out anything good to do with it. Next time I'll know better!

  11. Here it is called "Christophine", but in other french Indies, "Chouchou" or "Chayotte". It's very famous, the seed taste a little bit like artichoke. I often cook it in "gratin".
    bye !

  12. Thanks to your post, I went and purchased the "OXO Good Grips Julienne Peeler" yesterday and I am having so much fun shredding carrots!