I hated this dish when I was younger. Just couldn’t get over the slimy (did you know that word was spelled without an “e”? I didn’t. :)) texture of the patola/loofah, and the noodles were kinda slimy too… But my taste buds have evolved with old age, and I now look forward to a bowl of tasty, well-made misua and patola soup. There are a LOT of tasteless, pasty (yup, no “e” in that word either) versions out there, so we prefer to make a homemade version that ramps up the flavor just a bit… Our version probably breaks some cardinal rules for this soup, but as a simple home concoction, I couldn’t care less… :)
First, our cook made some mini-pork meat balls, seasoning the pork with some salt, pepper and a dash of patis (fish sauce) and fried them in a pan with some vegetable oil (lard would work nicely as well). Set these aside while you prepare the other ingredients. Peel just the thickest outer layer of the patola, and while some folks leave the skin on, we like to shave off that first darkest green layer. Slice the patola into roughly 1/4 or 1/3 inch thick disks.
In a pot, saute some chopped onion and minced garlic until fragrant, then add in the meatballs, and some home made pork broth. I intend to try this with some lechon broth the next time I am in Cebu, but didn’t have any at home. We didn’t have enough pork broth so I just added some water.
To this quick soup stock I added about 2 teaspoons of Kikkoman soy sauce, perhaps 2 teaspoons of Rufina patis (fish sauce) and a teaspoon or so of muscovado sugar. I know, I know, the last ingredient is highly unusual, but I find that it blends/mellows the other flavors, without the soup becoming noticeably sweeter. If you don’t have pork broth, you can use canned chicken broth, though I always wondered why recipes suggested that if you were putting pork meat balls… Let this simmer for a bit, and season with additional salt and some freshly ground white pepper. Be CAREFUL with salt, as the misua noodles sold here often seem to be quite salty. So you may want to hold off on salt until after you cook the noodles.
Add the sliced patola or loofah to the simmering broth and let it cook for a couple of minutes until just starting to soften. Add the noodles and stir gently to mix all the ingredients up. Taste the broth and season to your taste.
Once the patola and noodles are cooked, serve the soup HOT. I love how the green of the patola is so fresh and vibrant. The slices of the vegetable are not incredibly mushy and soft. The meatballs retain their shape and are packed with flavor. The noodles are soft but not a pile of slimy mush. The broth is deeply satisfying… and much better if you made your pork broth from scratch.
It’s best to enjoy this soup on a cool and rainy day, but we happened to cook this for lunch (just after returning from a market foray) the other day in sweltering heat… and it was still really delicious and comforting!