Loofah Clam Soup
Here in Taipei, I try to cook with ingredients which is harder to find back home. The loofah gourd (絲瓜) aka loofah (luffa) squash or melon fits the bill of an example of a common gourd in Taiwan, but rarely found in Singapore (correct me if I am wrong). This loofah clam soup (絲瓜蛤蜊湯) is both a vegetable and soup in a bowl, and cooks in under 15 minutes. It is a very popular Taiwanese homecooking dish (家常菜).
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The Taiwanese loofah tastes much like the angled luffa we have back home, but it is meatier and easier to prepare. I’m so glad that I get to cook with this ingredient during my short stay here.
This is a crate of loofah squash at a Taipei market. I don’t know the reason, but loofah is always wrapped in bubble wrap, even at the supermarkets. Don’t worry though if you can’t find the same variety of Taiwan loofah to make this recipe. It can be substituted with fuzzy/hairy melon (very common in SG), ridged luffa or winter melon.
How to prepare Taiwanese loofah squash. Just peel & discard the outer skin with a vegetable peeler, then cut the flesh to uniform chunks. The loofah seeds are not prominent, so they need not be removed. Don’t cut the chunks too small, if you are putting them into a soup, as they will shrink during simmering.
How to prepare clams. They need to be scrubbed then soaked in salt water for 1-2 hours in advance, so that all the sand and grit can be purged out. The clams add an instant depth of seafood umami to the loofah soup.
When the soup is done, just garnish with thin strips of ginger and chopped spring onions. You can also add glass noodles or vermicelli to convert it into a one-dish meal.