Let’s do the chow chow

The humble vegetable of the gourd family, though not too popular, has its share of health benefits

October 26, 2017 03:20 pm | Updated 03:20 pm IST

Chow chow subji is one of the dish from the south india. It is also used to make kootu, sagoo or palya or subji.

Chow chow subji is one of the dish from the south india. It is also used to make kootu, sagoo or palya or subji.

Fresh natural and organic of chayote fruits

Fresh natural and organic of chayote fruits

This vegetable clearly isn’t a popular favourite. It could be its thorny skin, the kitchen-grease feel on the hand once cut or it could also be the bland taste that makes many want to look away from the humble chow chow. Chow chow isn’t chowmein, and I learnt it the hard way after wrongly accusing the supermarket manager of billing me wrong.

Chayote, chow chow, squash or Bangalore brinjal is a common inexpensive vegetable that belongs to the gourd family, along with melons and cucumbers. It is known by different names in different places. In some countries it is called cho-cho, pipinola, pear squash, vegetable pear or choko. Somewhere in the process of the journey this vegetable has traversed, it earned the moniker chow chow. Though it is found almost everywhere, it grows best in cooler moist climates. The word chayote is Spanish and was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early explorers.

Mostly eaten in the cooked form, this Vitamin C-rich vegetable is used in several dishes. While cooking it in a sambar is common, a simple chow chow stir fry is also very popular. It is also said to be an ideal accompaniment for greasy meats. Locally, it is considered to be a neutraliser for acid reflux and spicy food. Incidentally, it grows in abundance in Meghalaya.

Though included in a variety of dishes, chow chow is also often grated and pickled in chilli oil and salt. Usually handled like summer squash, it is generally lightly cooked to retain the vegetable’s crispy consistency. But Bengalis are known to batter-fry it like they fry the brinjal ( begun bhaja ) and serve it with a vegetarian meal. Boiled or steamed, chayote is a must when relishing pork or beef dishes in Meghalaya. The smoked meats are usually tossed in pungent chilli and served with a combination of steamed green, fermented fish chutney, a soupy dal , steamed rice and a bowl of chayote. Locals believe the steamed chayote helps digest the dry meat better.

The chayote might look soft and translucent when tender, but as it ages, a fine fibre on the vegetable becomes prominent. Tender chayote, when made into a dry dish with potato, is said to help with digestion and gastric problems.

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