Cook, Pop, Cook: Chayote Squash
When we were expecting our daughter, I was worried about being a good dad. Two years later, she knows what a grill looks like, enjoys barbecue (especially ribs and brisket), can identify bacon, and has eaten an entire chicken thigh in one sitting. The jury’s still out on me being a good father, but it’s clear I’m doing a good job raising a carnivore. But with increased rates of childhood obesity and kids getting what used to be called adult-onset diabetes, I know I need to model good habits for my family, such as eating healthy and exercising. As a result, I’m always on the lookout for new vegetables and recipes to try.
Recently, we had guests over from Thailand and we went to an Asian grocery store in our area. One of the ladies who was staying with us saw a vegetable and said, “Have you tried this?”
It looked like a pear ate something really sour. When I told her I never tried it, she said, “Aroi MAK! (very delicious in Thai). I looked at the sign and it was called Chayote squash and it was $0.99/lb. Whenever we visit her in Thailand, my wife and I love her cooking, so I absolutely trusted her, and that evening, OH MY GOURD…I fell in love with chayote.
What is chayote? Where can you buy it? So far I’ve only seen it in Asian grocers, but I’m guessing some larger markets or Hispanic grocers should carry it. Select squash that are unblemished (the one above was the best we could find on the day we went) with smooth skin. Just like humans, squash with spots and wrinkles are older. To prepare chayote, you can either peel the skin or wash it thoroughly; you can slice it and put it in your salads or you can cook it – most recipes on the Web seem to use little more than oil and salt + pepper. Pop’ll give you an excellent Asian recipe that also uses ground pork. Hey, I don’t want to raise a meatatarian, but I don’t want to raise a vegetarian either. 😛
Pop’s Thai Friend’s Thai Chayote Squash Recipe
Procure 3-4 chayotes and about 1/2lb of ground pork.
First things first: decide how thick you want your chayote. My friend chopped them thin.
Unlike zucchini and other squashes, the thin slices of chayote were still fairly firm after cooking.
For the sake of experiment, I sliced mine thicker:
Personally, I liked the thinner slices better. Once you’ve decided on that, wash the chayotes thoroughly. I recommend leaving the skin on, but if you’re skinphobic, peel it. Then chop it up however you like – there’s an edible seed inside, which you can either eat or chuck.
After the chayotes are all chopped, chop 6-7 cloves of garlic and grate a 1/2″ piece of ginger.
Now get your ground pork ready. This was the smallest ground pork my Asian grocery store carried. I’m not a big fan of freezing ground meats, so I used all 1.275lbs, which was way too much pork since we only found 2 decent chayotes.
Now get out your secret ingredients: oyster sauce and ssamjang.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know how awesome ssamjang is. You could use any soybean paste though, but why would you?
Throw some olive oil in a decent sized pot over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is hot, throw in the ginger and garlic.
Now throw the ground pork in there.
Once again, this is 1.275lbs of ground pork, so there shouldn’t be nearly as much in your pot. Take a moment and let the pleasant aroma permeate your nostrils.
Make sure you cook the pork until there’s no more pink. Pink for beef = good. Pink for pork = diarrhea, cha cha cha!
Now throw the chayote in.
Once again, my chayote to pork ratio wasn’t very good. To save you from scrolling back up, here’s my friend’s chayote squash.
Notice how her’s looks like chayote squash with bits of pork, while mine looks like pork with bits of chayote.
After cooking that for about 5 minutes, throw in 3TBS of oyster sauce and 2TBS of ssamjang.
Throw in some crushed red peppers, cayenne or sriracha, a.k.a, cock sauce, or if you like your food to burn on the way in AND on the way out, throw in all three. Cook that for another 3 minutes or so, or until the chayote is as tender as you’d like.
Looks good, no?
Personally, I like to pour it over a bowl of rice to make sure I don’t lose any of the delicious pork juices.
Healthy, cheap ($0.99/lb), and delicious, chayote squash is now in the permanent vegetable rotation in Pop’s family.