Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stir-fried Chayote Leaves With Prawns in Prawn Stock

First time I saw this plant years ago, I don't even know what's the name. There's no indication on the price label either. I only knew it's definitely edible and it's organic because it came from a reputable organic food supplier! Price? Real cheap... a bunch serves 2-4 persons. One day, I saw a staff of the organic farm arranging the shelves. I 'pounced' on her... well, not really but I did interrupted her work and asked her what's the name of the vegetable I'm holding in my hand. She asked me to wait so she could check with the staff of the supermarket. Huh? Gasped! "Excuse me??? Aren't you supposed to be a staff of the organic farm?" I asked. " Yes... but my job is only to arrange the produce on the shelves when the items reached the supermarkets. I don't know what's the name of this vegetable but the supermarket staff said it's from a pumpkin of some sort..." she replied.

Blunder!!! Sometimes, I don't know why there's no proper labeling of produce at supermarkets. Instead of printing the labels as 'Japanese Vegetables' or 'Vegetables 007', why not their correct name? I'm sure there are item descriptions in the invoices... Anyway, with a hunch I asked again, "Is this vegetable called Dragon's Beard ?" With her confused look, " I think so." Alright, to avoid more confusions, I thanked her and grabbed 2 packs of my 'vegetable 007'. I pitied her, really. How could a company being so ignorant of informing their staff their products? Furthermore, this vegetable is not 'Japanese Vegetables' but originates from South America! At least get the name right.

Close up of Chayote Leaves: Tight tendrils and spear-like leaves.

All that aside... this vegetable I'm so obsessed about is none other than edible leaves of Chayote (Cha-yo-tay). Chayote is known as Buddha's Hand Gourd' and the leaves are called 'Dragon's Beard or Whiskers' by Mandarin speakers. It sounds so fancy, exotic but with all the tendrils and spear-like leaves (after comparing pictures of Dragons of all sorts) it doesn't look any resemblance to any parts of dragon whewww!!! I like the look of the Chayote fruit though. Sometimes, it looks like boxing glove, a punched mouth of a puppet or a mouth without a denture...LOL! There are many ways of cooking the Chayote and its leaves.

Normally, I would stir-fry the fruit/gourd with dried shrimps, eggs and transparent noodles (cellophane noodles/ glass noodles/ mung bean threads)... just like hairy gourd (Fuzzy gourd/Mo Kwa). It's delicious in soups and desserts as well. As for the leaves, I preferred to stir-fry it with pounded chilli paste or sambal belacan with dried shrimps or fresh prawns. Sometimes, I would add fresh coconut milk to the chilli mix like Masak Lemak... :-D But today, I have to skip that idea because my guest is enemy to chillies! So, I just stir-fry the leaves with garlic, fresh prawns and some prawn stock which I made from prawn heads and shells I reserved from previous recipe.

Stir-fry Chayote Leaves with Prawns in Prawn Stock

2 packs of Chayote Leaves (about 300 g)
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 pc Carrot- slice thinly
100 g Fresh Prawns - peeled and deveined
300 ml Prawn Stock (you can substitute with chicken stock)
Shaoxing Cooking Wine
Some Kuzu starch/ Cornstarch mixed with a some water
Cooking oil


1. Wash and trim Chayote Leaves an discard hard stems. Trim the tendrils shorter if it's too long. We don't want to get choke here...:-D.
2. In a hot wok/pan, heat some oil and fry the garlic until fragrant.
3. Add in the prawns. Stir a bit until they turn slightly pink and cook evenly.
4. Add in the Chayote leaves.
5. Pour in the stock and stir evenly.
6. Cook until the vegetables are tender to your liking.
7. Add few dash of Shaoxing Wine.
8. Just before serving, pour in the starch mixture. Give a good stir until the gravy/sauce thickens to your preferred consistency.
9. Dish out and serve hot with rice. You may sprinkle some shallot crisps if you like.

Note: You can omit the starch mixture if you don't like thick gravy. It tastes just as great in plain. I preferred to use kuzu as thickener than cornstarch because when the dish is cold, the gravy doesn't turned watery. Also, it has no perceptible taste compared to Cornstarch.



  1. I've never seen anything like these here, they look amazing!

    I think the chilli option sounds delicious too :)

  2. Pixen in Greece nothing has a proper name. I have not seen these before but my mother-in-law cooks pumpkin leaves (upper part) and this resembles a little bit.

  3. Hi KItty, actually I prefer the chilli option :-) Each year my taste for chilli getting stronger. I think I'm getting braver for hot & spicy food... hah! I bet you love chillies too!

    I do agreed with you that this plant looks amazing and a hardy as well. Some tendrils are tougher than the branch! I would sort them apart and the tougher portions will go into the pan first. That way, the vegetable would cook evenly.

  4. Hello Ivy,

    Like you, the first time I saw this plant it does resembled like pumpkin leaves! I thought it's from japanese pumpkin Kabocha... but the branches are stronger and tougher than pumpkin/squash.

    How does your Mother-in-law cook pumpkin leaves? I have large amount of saved Kabocha pumpkin seeds waiting to be planted :-)

  5. First time visitor. You have a lovely blog. I'm really intrigued. We have a huge Chinese community so I may find these here, although I don't think I've seen them before. Pity, you turned them into something amazing.

  6. I am not sure how my mother-in-law cooks them. I'll see if I can find out.

    I have an award waiting on my blog for you :)

  7. Ooh I cook with chayote all the time but never with the chayote leaves. I'll need to look for this.. Those curly fronds look fun to eat!

  8. I've never seen the leaves of the chayote before, so this was quite new to me. I love cooking veggies with prawns/shrimp: they just get such a lovely sweetness from the shrimps. Do the leaves taste like chayote?

  9. Hi js... Thanks for viewing my blog :-) The leaves/shoots taste a bit bland but with 'green veggie' taste. Nothing like the chayote fruit which is a bit slippery after you slice it and taste like 'water gourd'. The leaves absorb very well flavours from other ingredients. I hope you can find the shoots from your local vegetable suppliers. I have kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) growing now... I may try the leaves as well :-D

  10. i remember this dish ,we use to make this in the Philippines !!! to bad i can't find some where i live ! :)

  11. Hi Mumay, thank you for visiting my blog. Maybe, you can find farmers who sell chayotes in your area? I don't think they mind selling you some of the leaves. Maybe they don't even know that Chayote leaves are delicious. Another way... plant chayote in your own garden. I did once planted pumpkin in pots but they went haywire LOL One of my foodie friends told me the pumpkin leaves can be eaten as well, just like chayote's leaves!

    I hope you can leave me your blog's link if you have any. I would love to try Pinoy recipes :-)

  12. This is my favorite veggie everytime I'm home. Love the crunchy texture and how they stay deep green after cooking. Yups, agree that it's best cooked with prawns

  13. Hi Dhi... I seconded on that! I think we can fry it with crustaceans but not fish though. The fish meat will break apart with all the stir-frying. I tried with Mantis Prawns, Slipper Lobsters or Dried Shrimps... thumbs up! :-)


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