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Slaoui (Bottle Gourds) in Morocco
In Morocco, bottle gourds are called slaouia (plural slaoui). Though it's often referred to as a squash, it's actually an edible gourd. It can be cooked into a variety of dishes, from salads to traditional Moroccan tagine recipes, and much more.
Slaouia can grow fairly large, often reaching 12 inches length, though there are a few different varieties that can take on different shapes. Most will be either straight or have a curved neck. Availability may be limited elsewhere, but in tropical climates, they're available year-round.
The gourd typically has a pale green skin—some will be more chartreuse while others are a darker green. When selecting them at the market, slight imperfections in the skin are nothing to worry about. Uncut, these gourds can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
In other parts of the world, slaouia is known by different names:
- Lauki or dudhi (doodhi) in India
- Cucuzza in Italy
- Hulu or huzi in China
- Bottle gourd, milk gourd, or calabash in English-speaking countries
Before they're cut up to be used in cooking, the gourds should be peeled and the spongy flesh discarded. The seeds and skin of young bottle gourds are edible, but as it matures, these lose some of their tenderness.
It's easy to prep bottle gourds to use in your favorite recipes, especially if you have a few tips.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
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Discard the Narrow Neck
Wash the bottle gourd then cut off the neck.
The narrow neck is typically firmer than the rest of the gourd, so it should be discarded. The rest of the gourd will be prepped for use in your recipe.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
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Peel the Skin
Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the bottle gourd's pale green skin. Work your way down the gourd lengthwise to make this step faster.
The newly exposed, bright green layer is a bit slippery, so be careful as you work.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
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Remove the Seeds and Spongy Interior
Cut the peeled bottle gourd in half lengthwise. Use a paring knife to remove the seeds and spongy interior.
This flesh should be discarded because it turns mushy when cooked. Only the peeled, hollowed-out slaouia is used in Moroccan cooking since it retains its shape and palatable texture.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Slice and Cook
The hollowed-out bottle gourd can be left as-is if you were adding it to couscous. Typically, however, it's cut into smaller pieces for cooking in salads or tagines. You can cut the gourd into narrow bands, leave the pieces wider, or chop them into small, bite-sized pieces, depending on how you're using it.
In Moroccan cooking, the bottle gourd is often used in cooked salads like the Moroccan zucchini salad or tagine recipes. It's also a nice addition to stews made with beef, lamb, or goat meat, depending on the region and personal preferences.
You might consider baking or slow roasting the gourd before cutting it up. It can then be pureed and added to soups. Some cooks enjoy stuffing and roasting more mature gourds as well.
Beyond Moroccan cuisine, you might come across the bottle gourd in dishes from other countries where it's a popular vegetable. For instance, thin slices can be added to a Chinese stir-fry and small chunks would be good in an Indian curry or chutney.
Pair bottle gourds with other vegetables like eggplant, onion, tomatoes, and peppers. They're tasty when seasoned with a variety of boldly flavored herbs and spices, including garlic, ginger, and fennel. The texture is great with chickpeas and lentils and you can also try it in dishes featuring pork or shellfish.