Sunday, July 22, 2007

pork togan

The other day while grocery shopping I came across togan (wintermelon). I never knew this, but it is called wintermelon and it is in season during the summer months (neat, huh?). I had never cooked with togan before, but have eaten it many times while growing up in Hawaii.

My uncle used make this dish sometimes for our weekly Sunday dinners. (At least I think he was the one who used to make it...) Anyway, to tell you the truth, when I was growing up, I didn't care for this dish much. What can I say? growing up, I was a picky eater. Plus, I think I would always get that big hunk of ginger nicely hidden in my dish and end up chomping into it unexpectedly..blah!

So, the other day when I saw togan in the store, I hesitated, should I try making this dish? I walked around the supermarket a bit, contemplating, (The supermarket security must have gotten suspicious because I went and came back to the togan many times.) I decided I would try making pork togan.

I looked in all my cookbooks from Hawaii, but none noted a recipe, so I emailed my mom to ask if she had a recipe. (I love the internet!) She said she had just cooked pork togan for dinner and added a little shoyu (soy sauce) and mirin (sweet rice wine) with no specific measurements, onion and lastly the togan. (Boy, I wish I could cook by "feel" and "eye balling".)

I then looked in another cookbook to see how to clean the togan. I bought this already cut and it looked like a cross between a pear and watermelon. Take a spoon and scoop out the seeds. The book also said to use a knife to peel the skin of the togan, but that was too scary for me (in the past, I have cut myself badly), so I used a vegetable peeler. (Thank goodness for fingernails! I did lose one, but it saved me from shaving off my fingertip...whew!)

Since I didn't have a recipe to follow, I decided to use a variation of the sauce that I use for nikujaga (Japanese stewed meat and potatoes)--the taste is close to what I remember the dish tasting like.

Kat's pork togan
150g thinly sliced pork
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 togan (wintermelon), cut into 1/2 inch width pieces*
1 tablespoon olive oil

2.5 cups dashi (stock)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
3.5 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1" nub of ginger, peeled

In a pot, put the olive oil and heat, add pork and onion, coating everything with the oil.
When the pork changes color, add the dashi and togan.
Turn the heat up to high and let come to a boil.
Then bring the heat down to medium and scrape some of the scum from the top.
Cook for about 4 minutes, scraping the scum every so often.
Add the ingredients for the sauce and lower the heat to simmer.
Cook for another 20 minutes.
Poke a piece of togan with a chopstick to see if it is soft, if not let simmer for another 5 minutes and check again.

NOTES: I forgot to put the ginger in (subliminal? maybe), if possible, try to put a piece in, it adds a different layer of flavor to the dish. *Also, do not cut the togan to thin, it will "melt" while cooking (1/2 inch size width pieces should be okay).

I actually ate this by putting my rice in with the pork togan soup, I grew up eating a lot of soups this way and always thought it was a way to cool down the food to be eaten easily. In Japan, it is looked upon as rude (especially for miso soup) to do this. Satoshi said they call this nekomeshi (cat's food), because this was how you made food for your cat. (I guess it is Kat food...)

This was a good experience--I got to use an ingredient I've never cooked with before, realized I actually like this dish and though my uncle isn't with us anymore, it brought back nice memories of the dinners with him and my family.

Hope you have a nice week.


OkiHwn said...

I have a wintermelon soup on my site. Just with water, pork, maybe mushrooms, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Another Chinese mother's regular recipe.

K and S said...

I saw that on your site, Nate. It looked really good.

Take care.

OkiHwn said...

You ever had the dish made of a whole winter melon with the top cut off then used as a cover. The melon is cleaned of the core and seeds, filled with chopped water chestnuts, mushrooms, chicken, ham, pork, ginko nuts, bamboo shoots, etc. and chicken broth, then steamed whole? It's an expensive dish. You may have seen pictures of an intricately carved outside. A special dish at a special Chinese banquet. I've made it once here, but hard to find a smaller winter melon, or even a bigger one without it being cut up. When I did make it, the winter melon was given to me by a farmer. It's a fantastic dish.

Anonymous said...

never thought i'd want to eat nekomeshi...until now!

kat food sounds yum.


K and S said...

I think I've tried this at a Chinese wedding once, but I've mostly had the wintermelon soup at Chinese restaurants, Nate. Both are quite tasty.

Thanks Bourgogne!

Take care you two.

Barbara said...

I've never heard of a togan. It sounds interesting.

K and S said...

If I'm not mistaken Barbara, I think it is a type of squash. It is also called dong qua in Chinese and used in quite a number of Chinese dishes.

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Kat!

I can't believe how many posts I've missed. I've been away for awhile and have missed reading your blog.

I've never heard of wintermelon but I loved that you gave it a try even though you weren't crazy about it as a child!

K and S said...

Thanks Ivonne! Hope to see you around here more often.

Take care.