冬瓜 tougan in Japanese, シブイ shibui in Okinawan means “winter melon.”
Many Americans buy tougan thinking it is a watermelon… and then are very surprised. I guess it kinda looks similar, but not really. Tougan is another staple in Okinawan recipes.
Tougan is harvested in warm weather, but is able stay good for many months, so it is basically a year-round vegetable here.
Many people add it to stews or soups; I especially see it added to miso soups to make them more hearty. The vegetable itself can be a bit watery, and does not have much taste by itself, but it will soak in the flavors it cooks with. Also it is fairly cheap, making it popular here in Okinawa.
There is even a delicious Ryukyuan delicacy made out of this vegetable: Tougatsuke: 冬瓜漬. I recently visited an amazing little Ryukuan sweets shop that served this tougan “candy.”
Shibui-no-hi シブイの日 (Winter melon day) is on April 10th. They decided this by using “shi” from shibui, 4, and “tou” from tougan, 10. So 4/10, April 10th, is winter melon day.
I will find some more recipes and add them, but here is one to get started:
Tougan no shiri-shiri (Shredded winter melon salad) 冬瓜のシリシリー： シリシリー shirishiri refers to the way the tougan is cut, basically to shred. It is common style in Okinawa; often you see carrot shirishiri, but today, we can use it with tougan.
Tougan, ~400g shredded
1/2 cucumber shredded
*optional: fake crab, shredded
salt, 1 teaspoon
shoyu, 2.5 teaspoons
sesame oil, 1 tsp
vinegar, 3.5 teaspoons
sugar, 1/2 tsp
ra-yu ラー油 (type of chili oil) 3 drops or to taste
sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon
Peel wash, and shirishiri (shred) with a slicer. Add the tougan to a bowl and salt, let it sit and then drain to get some moisture out. Add cucumber (and the crab if using), and combine the seasonings, mixing well. Chill and serve.