Gourd is very old plant and have always been depicted in Japanese art, literature and religion, conducting spiritual and mystical significance. I had no idea until today what a wide subject gourds are. Who would have thought gourds could be so captivating and refreshing? Find out more about the topic on this super informative blog from Jerry Vegde with lots of anecdotes and incredible pictures: here !
Now, you might say to yourself “Wait. Do people actually CAN eat gourds”?
Well… they are in fact many types of gourds in this world it makes me dizzy just thinking about it -_-‘. In Japan, most type of gourd are, indeed, not edible. Those are dried up and used as instruments, containers, pencil cases, decoration and many more (yep, even used to carry sake ^^).
One type of large gourd can be eaten after being dried, then rehydrated, called Kanpyō (かんぴょう or 干瓢). It is commonly used as a futomaki filling.
But the most surprising type of gourd that caught my eye is a tiny little gourd’s strain who’s like a mini hyōtan ひょうたん.
These cute little gourds are believed to be “good luck gourds”. People consume them during ceremonies such as wedding or New Year’s holidays and it’s been said that if you eat 6 you’ll be disease free! That’s what I call a good news! It also can be sneaked in one’s bento as a good omen ;). They come pickled with and seasoned with either soy bean, miso or shibuzabe. I picked the latter one.
Shibuzake, also referred to as Shiba, is a mix of chopped cucumbers and eggplant that has been salted and brined with red shiso (it’s merely the Japanese word for perilla). It has a very distinctive purplish hue, so you can’t be mistaken.
Being a pickle, it doesn’t require any cooking nor adding any extra effort but grabbing your chopsticks and go for it. It must be placed in a small dish and eaten cold.
What does it taste like?
I’m in love! What a distinctive perilla flavour, not too salty and just sour enough. It’s really soft and you won’t feel any acidity some pickle might have. It’s just a pity the actual gourd flavour can’t really be identified.
The texture makes each bit an exploration. First, the firm skin holds the core well, then the core reveals an increasingly tender flesh as you are working towards its center.