Tuna Shakes and Cucumber Sausages

2006.Jan.28 Saturday · 3 comments

in Food & Recipes

Tunas - cactus pearsBuenos Aires – I’ve been having fun, as summer produce has been appearing more and more at various markets, finding new and different items. Wandering through a local farmer’s market the other day we came across a pile of tunas. Back in the states I knew them as cactus pears or prickly pears. We picked up half a dozen each of the red and yellow ones and have been eating our way through them here and there – they’re deliciously juicy and sweet. Yesterday when I got back from Coreatown I had this urge to turn them into a licuado, blending the fruit with ice and chilled water until it was frothy, and then straining it. They didn’t need any added sugar, and it was a great refreshment on a hot day!

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My strange cucumberCoreatown seemed like a great place to find interesting vegetables, and yesterday we’d returned to the Wall of Cabbage looking for a few. This is not a sausage. It is, according to the young man who sold it to me, a cucumber. It has a brick orange, leathery skin. I felt it more likely to be some sort of root vegetable, or maybe a squash, but he was adamant. In regard to flavor he said it was similar to regular cucumbers, but different. He was right. The inside is a gleaming white color. The flavor is very intensely cucumbery, and the seeds and the pulp that surrounds them taste exactly like a tart, fresh lemon. I did a bit of online research and the closest cucumbers I could come up with were the Chinese Yellow and the Uzbkski (I looked at various types of Lemon Cucumbers, based on the flavor, but none I could find seem remotely like this in shape, size, or color). Insides of my strange cucumberThe former I could only find pictures of that were quite vividly yellow, though a couple of seed companies asserted that the cukes turn orange if left on the vine too long. It’s also described as having a very sweet, melony flavor. My cucumber didn’t seem past its prime, and the flavor profile doesn’t fit. The latter I could only find descriptions of, and one photo, and it’s described as “A fascinating heirloom from the Mideast country of Uzbekistan. Big, fat 6″-8″ cucumbers turn brown when ripe, very crisp even at large sizes.” My cucumber sort of fits that desciption, but it’s not fat, and it’s nearly 14″ long. I’m up for hearing from readers as to just exactly what this is! Meanwhile, I foresee a lemony cucumber salsa for some grilled fish in its future.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

dan March 18, 2006 at 10:08

Cluvy over on eGullet finally responded as having recognized this as what he/she knows as old cucumber or lao huang gua (literally old yellow melon). Punching that into a google search yielded a few descriptions of, but no other photos. I’m afraid I didn’t use it for soup and I peeled it. My bad…

From asiafoodpix (on which the pix are all broken links…which sort of defeats the purpose I’d think):

Cucumber
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Cucumis sativus
Cucumber is usually eaten raw. The tips may be bitter in taste and often discarded. Keep fresh in a bucket of water. An orangy brown variety known to the Chinese as Old cucumber, or Lao huang-gua, is used almost exclusively for soups. Usually cut into sections and not peeled.

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I did find an interesting photo when I plugged in “old cucumber” to google images at U M A M I who used a very similar looking, if shorter, lao huang gua to make tea!

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