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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Just what are those dudhi and mooli veg in my supermarket and how do I cook them?

We walk past them everyday in the supermarket but most people have no idea what to do with them. No rude comments si vous plait. They are on sale with the ladies fingers and the yams but what are they and how can I use them in cookery? I went intrepidly into my Tesco fruit and veg section and checked them out for you.


Moolis are often found in Asian supermarkets and sometimes called daikon or Japanese radish. It looks like an overweight and pallid carrot and is part of the radish family and can be used raw in much the same way. It is an important ingredient in the cookery of Japan, China, India and Vietnam where it is served raw, pickled or cooked. It is believed to have originated from the Mediterranean.

The grated vegetable is used in a variety of ways including as a garnish for sashimi and can be used in stir fries thinly sliced. Western chefs frequently use it in Asian style dishes and it is particularly popular with vegetarians for its low calorie content and high levels of vitamin C.

Plantain: a staple of East and Central Africa and parts of Asia, plantains are kinds of banana that can only be used for cooking. They have a tough skin and a starch level that renders them unappealing until the cooking heat converts it into sugars. Edible plantain starts green, turns yellow, gets black spots and when fully ripe are all black. For all intents and purposes they can look like the bananas you certainly wouldn't want to buy but read on. When they are green and starchy they can be sliced and fried into chips or crisps. Once the interior is sweet and ripe they can be mashed, baked or boiled. However they are best fried and served with fish, meat or vegetables. They are especially loved in the Caribbean.

The dudhi is also known as Lauki or Lau in north India, sorakaya in Telugu. The English name for this vegetable is 'bottle gourd' and they come is various shapes and sizes the one shown above being the  most common. It is not recommended to eat the dudhi raw. Extensively used in Indian cuisine, the dudhi can be a very flexible ingredient. HERE is a great example of the dudhi used in Indian halwa cooking.

Japanese yams: known in Japanese as yamaimo (mountain potato) or taro root the Japaense yam has been revered for its medicinal qualities in the Far East for thousands of years. Yamaimo is unusual for a yam in that is  most often eaten raw. Grated, it is served on top of a bowl of noodles or with rice. Then it is known as tororo. Traditionally it is eaten on the third day of January to aid indigestion after New Year excesses! The taste of raw grated yam is extremely sticky - an acquired taste but, apparently, one worth acquiring. Thinly sliced with soy sauce and with wasabi it is crisp and juicy and when cooked it is gluey and soft.

Okra or ladies fingers. Okra is a fantastic vegetable whose texture varies dramatically depending on how it's cooked. If you like it gooey and glutinous, add it to an African-style stew; if you prefer it in whole chunks, try it in a classic American gumbo. Okra is also known as ladies’ fingers because of its shape, and is widely used in Indian, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and southern US cookery. Quote: BBC Cookery.The BBC Food website is worth looking at for inspiration in cooking with okra.

Tip: Rather like choosing sweet young courgettes for their taste and texture when choosing okra choose okra that is evenly green and about 2 to 4 inches (5-10 cm) long. Too large and the okra will have a flat taste, and may be too tough to eat. Too small, and the okra will be difficult to cook.
Avoid okra that look shrivelled or are soft when squeezed. The okra should snap rather than bend.

Hope that is helpful and has at least given an overview on those strange veg that have become part of the shopping experience for a multi-cultural society and hopefully will broad and enhance our cooking choices.

Thanks to the book 1001 Foods for much of the practical information on this blog post.

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