Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Far From Môm

Last week The Girl of the Limberlost and I enjoyed some wonderfully puckery, tamarind-infused hot and sour soup at the Lan Café on east 6th Street. I am very excited about this soup, and normally I would be carrying on about the okra (soup with okra! Hot diggity!), but another vegetable neither one of us had ever seen before stole the show. The crescent-shaped slices had a crisp-tender, webby, honeycomb-like texture, and pale green skin.

TGOTL thought it might be a variety of eggplant, and I was imagining it might be in the gourd family. Our waiter told us the vegetable is called “Môm” (sounds like “mome,” as in “mome raths”), and he very kindly agreed to bring one out from the kitchen, after much urgent beseeching on my part (you see, I do this all for you, my heart’s cherished readers). It turns out to be the leaf-stalk, or petiole, of a very large plant, a couple of feet long, and about two inches wide with a crescent-shaped cross-section.The Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database yielded two likely suspects, both in the taro family: Môn bạc hà or khoai môn. The discussion here is helpful. I am amazed to learn this is the decorative plant known in English as elephant’s ear. We’ve got some right here in Washington Square.

Plant Names in Yiddish by Mordkhe Schaechter identifies the Yiddish word for this plant as kolokasye. This blog could not exist without this book.

קאָלאָקאַסיע
Colocasia/ elephant’s ear

Here’s a wonderful recipe for canh chua da hou (Buddhist sour soup) that seems just exactly right.

Sweetnicks will guide you toward other unexpected delights of the plant world.

All photos in this post are from Google--I am hoping to be reunited with my camera soon.

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Here's a movie of the other kind of elephant ears.

4 Comments:

Anonymous ephraim said...

i was told that the elephant ear plants are somehow related to taro. (the one's used for landscaping anyhow - which may not be the same as the kind you ate)

8:39 AM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

ephraim,

according to one website I found, there are more than 30 species of this plant in Florida. I would guess different kinds are bred for optimal tubers or optimal leaves, or stems, I mean petioles.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Alanna said...

Um, Girl of the Limberlost?? I thought she was a schoolgirl from the Upper Penninsula of Michigan ... ; - )

6:14 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

Hi Alanna,

Indiana, I think.

One of these days I mean to post something about the book A Girl of The Limberlost, a classic work of children's literature of the 19th century Midwest.
My dear friend has that nom de blog because she served many years in the Limberlost as a grad student.

6:39 PM  

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