Recipe & Photography: Brinda Bungaroo
Chayote, also known as “Chow Chow”, is this lovely pear shaped light green vegetable of gourd family. It is one of the well-recognized vegetables in Mauritius, mid-American regions and in some southern US states like California, Louisiana, and Florida. Chowchow is a perennial vine that climbs by clinging and it needs a well-drained moist soil and long, warm growing season to flourish.
When I think of chowchow, I remember them in their natural habitat, running along fences, over shrubs, and even straight-up trees. My memory of these lovely vegetables is seeing them in almost everybody’s home garden in Mauritius. Picked fresh and cooked within minutes, they are so fresh and tender, organic vegetable at its best.
My mother still grows them in her garden, it was one of my papa’s favourite vegetable not only because they were easy to grow but above all they are very tasty, melts in the mouth. They are full of flavour and full of all goods things. We’ve always had these vegetables in abundance in our Home gardens in Mauritius. I remember as a child, my dad would sometimes come home for lunch, and mum would quickly run into the garden pick a few “chowchow” and cook them in just a bit of onion, garlic, few simple spices, fresh thyme and a dish would be ready in a flash. Great freshly prepared dish to accompany any other leftover food from the night before.
Health benefits of chayote – “chowchow”
Chayote like pumpkin is one of the vegetables, which are very low calories, no saturated fats or cholesterol. However, it is rich a source of dietary fibre, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins in particular B-complex. Like in other gourd family vegetables such as courgette or zucchini they too provide moderate levels of potassium.
Being a low-calorie and fibre-rich vegetable, it is recommended in many diet in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs. Furthermore, chayotes contain small levels of essential compounds and antioxidants. These compounds help scavenge harmful reactions from the body and hence play a role in prevention of cancer, aging and various disease processes.
Now knowing about some of the health benefits, made me realise why my papa loved these vegetable so much. He could just eat them with plain boiled rice or fresh bread. He certainly knew the usefulness of these lovely fresh squash.
Spicy Chayote “ChowChow” Stew
Cooking time 20 – 25 mins
2 medium size – chayotes (chowchow)
2 medium size potatoes or few small ones
Handful of green beans – chopped
2 Tbs vegetable or rapeseed oil (Rapesed oil is low in saturated fat, high in monounsaturated fats and a good source of Vitamin E).
1 medium size onion
½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground cumin & a few whole cumin seeds
½ tsp gound ginger and garlic
½ tsp chilli flakes
Few curry leaves or bay leaves
Sprig of fresh thyme, handful of chopped coriander and basil leaves to garnish
Salt to taste
Start by preparing the vegetables. Peel the “chowchow”, carrots, potatoes and cut into cube to bite sized pieces. Chop the onion, set aside.
In a wide skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, cook until translucent. Now add the curry leaves, whole cumin seeds, cumin powder, turmeric and chopped garlic and ginger. Sauté them for few minutes.
Add the chopped vegetables, apart from the green beans, season with salt. Stir the vegetable until they are well coated with all the cooked spices. Add the fresh thyme.
Cook gently on a low heat. Add water just enough to cover all the vegetables. Cover and leave to simmer.
As the root vegetables starts to cook, add the chopped beans.
Cover the pan and leave to simmer for 5-10 mins or until all the vegetable reach the tenderness you desire, stirring in-between. Taste for seasonings.
Chayote releases water on cooking and this helps to tenderize the potatoes and carrots.
Turn the heat off, add the chopped coriander.
Serve warm with crusty bread, chapatis or naans. This stew is such a comfort and warming dish perfect for a cold winter’s day.
Brinda Bungaroo loves everything about food. She has a great passion for eating, cooking, and entertaining families and friends and loves to share her favourite recipes.