In Southeast Asian cooking traditions of Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, a wide variety of leaves, vines, and flowers are used for cooking that are little known for culinary purposes elsewhere. Ivy gourd leaves are one such delicious variety of edible leaves that we can find here in Philly. Lately I’ve been studying our local offerings, collecting images and experimenting with many flavors.
In the coming new year, I will add a new feature to this blog, an identification guide for Asian greens. So far I’ve found ivy gourd vines at markets in North and South Philly.
This vegetable is known by many names. In English it might be called Scarlet gourd or tindora (here is a nice introduction to this vine and gourd at Green Deane’s Eat the Weeds). At Cambodian markets it is labeled with latinized Khmer name, sluck bah tammin, also known in khmer as sleuk bas បាស. In Laos it goes by a similar name, pak tammim ຜັກຕຳນີນ and in Thai it is known as pak tamleung ผักตำลึง.
This vegetable can be cooked very gently, and for soups it would be added at the very end of cooking. Some cooks prefer to simply fill a bowl with leaves before pouring hot soup over the top.
If you have access to very fresh, young vines and leaves, you can add vine stems into the soup as well. This batch that I got is a little older, and some of the vines are tough. I chose to only use the leaves for our “bland soup” gaeng jeud แกงจืด.
If you spot some vines in a box at the market, this might be it. Look at the leaves. The shape should be something like a small fat maple leaf, and sometimes the leaves look more heart-shaped. here are a few leaf samples:
Recipe: “Bland soup” with ivy gourd leaves Gaeng jeud tamleung แกงจืดตำลึง
The genre of “bland soups” in Thai cooking are generally simple clear meat broths with minimal accompaniment. Recipe ingredients vary widely depending on what is available. Frequent ingredients include ground pork, egg tofu, cellophane noodles, ground white pepper (prik Thai พริกไทย), fried garlic, green onion, and cilantro. Many recipes can be found online for this soup. Here are two good ones, Rachel Cooks Thai, and here’s another nice step by step from “Pim’s kitchen” (in Thai) ครัวบ้านพิม.
This soup is very simple, it is hard to screw up.
1. Boil some water or stock in a pot.
2. Mix ground pork in a bowl with crushed garlic, with some crushed cilantro root and ground white pepper, fish sauce, and any other seasonings. Form into balls. Plop them into the soup pot. Skim any fatty foam off the top to keep the broth clear.
3. Boil meat balls and or any other ingredients except ivy leaves. Taste broth for flavoring. It should be a simple meat stock. Flavor with fish sauce or salt and sugar. Today we used sliced carrots and pre-soaked cellophane (mung bean) noodles. When ingredients are cooked through (i.e. tofu, carrots, noodles), you are good to go.
4. Add or combine ivy leaves and cilantro and green onion if using. Top off with fried garlic and ground white pepper.