Ridged gourd is one of those vegetables I was completely turned off by as a kid. It has a strange bitter taste, it looks green, and it has spikes. Seriously, it is a not an appetizing looking vegetable. My mother used to make meatballs stuffing them into these ridge gourd and cooked them in a soup. I resented eating them for a very long time.
In fact, to recreate this meal, I had to do it all from memories 10-15 years ago. I’m thankful my mother used to make me watch her cook. I, once in while, helped cooked but mostly got in the way, relegated to making rice or cleaning the vegetables.
Since it was Khmer New Years, vermicelli noodles are the big ingredient to be used. Why? It took me a long time to find out, mostly because I never really thought to ask. It was such a normal every yearly meal. Egg rolls all have vermicelli. The temple would be overflowing with fried vermicelli with mushrooms or soupy vermicelli with mushrooms.
When I finally asked my mother, she answered, bean vermicelli is used for wishes of longevity because as dried noodles, it’s very hard to cut. (Seriously, has anyone tried to cut dried bean vermicelli?) We want our lives to be long and healthy so we make vermicelli every new year to wish for our loved ones to live long lives with us.
So this Khmer New Year, I had spent alone, far from my family, but with my dog and cat and found myself making meatballs and egg rolls, preparing apple bananas and mangos, lighting incense and candles, in hopes that my ancestors would hear my new year’s prayers of warm wishes and happiness.
Ingredients for the Meatballs
- .5 lb ground pork
- 1/2 stalk of ridged gourd
- 1 batch of vermicelli noodles (if you buy the unbatch, use about 1 cup of hard noodles)
- 1/2 tsp of salt (add more for your taste)
- 1/2 tsp of black pepper
- pinch of sugar
Ingredients for the Lemongrass Broth
- 6 cups of water
- half a stalk of lemongrass
- 2 kaffir leaves
- 2 slices of galangal, about 1mm cut crosswise)
- 1 tsp jasmine rice
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
1. Always soak the vermicelli before prepping. Soak in warm water for about 5 minutes. Drain and cut into half an inch pieces.
2. Add pork and vermicelli together with salt, sugar, and black pepper. Mix very well.
4. After cleaning and cutting the rough spikes off (those bits are quite bitter) the ridged gourd, cut crosswise about an inch. Carve the spongy center out. Use a small spoon to help roll the meat into a nice ball. Slowly add the ball into the hole, be careful not to break the ridged gourd. Leftover meat can be rolled into their own individual balls. Set aside.
5. The broth is a very simple lemongrass broth. Boil water on high with rice, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, and galangal. Upon boil, add salt and sugar. Taste to make sure it’s a nice hint of saltiness, without it overcoming the lemongrass taste.
6. After tasting, lower the heat to medium (this is important as boiling water can break the meatballs). Slowly add the meatballs and stuffed ridged gourd into the soup. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the ridged gourd is soft.
7. Serve immediately with rice.