Angled Luffa (Luffa acutangula) is one of two commonly available types of patola in the Philippine archipelago. Closely related, the Angled Luffa is distinguished by ten sharp ridges as opposed to the other type of patola that has a smoother, rounder skin. When the smoother loofah is allowed to grow really big and mature, it is stripped of its skin, seeds removed and dried until it becomes a â€œloofahâ€ used in the bath! Isnâ€™t that outrageous? So soft, silky and slimy as a kid and then when it gets too old it is used as a sponge or scrub to remove dead skin flakes in the bathâ€¦ Apparently we have huge plantations of patola up North all meant to be made into spongesâ€¦ no wonder loofahs at Shoemart are just PHP15-25 a piece while at the nearby Body Shops they cost 3 to 4 times as much!
At any rate, the angled loofah does make good eats. Sauteed as a vegetable, it is like a silkier zucchini. It is a great vehicle for other flavor agents hence its use with dried or fresh shrimps, pork, garlic, etc. Patola seems to suck up all of the flavors around it. Some folks (like Marketman for the first 30 years of his life) do not like the slimy nature of this vegetable and I can still understand that reactionâ€¦ sort of like the aversion to overcooked okra. Nevertheless, patola is also commonly eaten throughout the tropical world. A native of India, it thrives around the globe in countries close to the equator. It is also frequently used in soups with noodles in China and Southeast Asia. In our house, it appears mostly in a soup with pork meatballs, misua noodles, garlic and lots of chicken broth. It is particularly good on a damp rainy night. I havenâ€™t really maximized my enjoyment of this vegetable and am curious how Market Manila readers like to prepare itâ€¦ perhaps I can coax a new or interesting recipe from some of you?