I was so excited to receive this post from Penny because Hechima is the one common Okinawa veggie that I’ve never figured out how to cook!  Thanks for the step by step!

CONTRIBUTED BY PENNY VAN HEERDEN

Hechima or Nabera, as it is known in the local Okinawan dialect, resembles a cucumber and is from the gourd family.  In mainland Japan, Hechima is dried and used as a loofah sponge for bathing.  It is only eaten in Okinawa.  I love the simple, clean taste of Hechima, which becomes soft, like eggplant, when cooked.

Hechima is sold in the local produce section of supermarkets — or even better, you can find it at any farmer’s market.  When choosing Hechima, smaller is better.  The bigger they get the more spongy the texture becomes.  You don’t want to feel like you are eating a bath sponge!

A friend taught me the following recipe a couple of months after arriving in Okinawa for the first time in 1996.  (Aah, what a baby I was then.)  It is still one of our favorite dishes and is simple, inexpensive and yet totally different from anything back home.

Hechima Ingredients

Ingredients:

2 x medium Hechima

1 x block of tofu (preferably fresh)

1 x tin of tuna

Oil

Soya Sauce to taste

Pepper to taste

Method:

1.    Cut the tofu into bite size squares.

Hechima tofu

2.    Peel the Hechima and cut into rounds.

Hechima peeled
3.    In a wok or large frying pan fry the tofu until lightly browned.  This gives a pleasant crispiness.

Hechima Fried tofu
4.    Add the Hechima and cover with a lid (or in my case, a large dinner plate.)

Hechima Add cut
Cover pan

5.    Cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes.  The Hechima will have become soft and a lot of juice will have come from the Hechima making it resemble a soup.

Hechima soupy
6.    Add the tuna, Soya Sauce and black pepper.

Hechima final
7.    Heat through and then serve with rice.  Enjoy!

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for this recipe!! I made it tonight but just wondered — my hechima went a murky green brown colourafter cooking and barely lost any liquid. Did I do something wrong? Was it not ripe enough? Still super yummy! Will be making it again

  2. I did learn to make the above from a local and followed his directions but I am sure there are a variety of additions that can be made. I love the idea of adding miso. Also, I believe the soupiness of the dish depends on taste. I am sure that reducing the liquid would make it more stir fry like and will definitely try it that way. I have eaten it at various Okinawan restaurants and have found that it is generally served as being more soupy than stir fry.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I asked some locals about this dish and its really popular. But you’re missing a key part…add a little miso paste. It’s what pulls this dish together and gives it the main flavor. Also, frying in sesame oil will add some much needed flavor as well as adding some mirin for sweetness and a touch of dashi for that authentic Japanese fishiness. Little bits of everything and high heat will make this more of a stir fry and less of a soupy mess in the end. Cook with a lid to soften the hechima but simmer with no lid in the end to reduce the liquid to a small amount perfect for eating with rice.

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