Drinking Around Chinatown: Wax Gourd

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[Photograph: Meister]

If there's one thing I've learned from browsing various Chinatown beverage coolers, it's this: Somebody somewhere has probably tried to make a drink out of just about every single fruit and vegetable known to man.

Case in point: Wax gourd drink.

What is a wax gourd? Also called a winter melon or white gourd, it's a vine-grown vegetable native to Southeast Asia, now also widely cultivated throughout China and Taiwan. A versatile plant, the gourd can be baked, steamed, dried, stir-fried... and, apparently, sweetened with cane sugar and bottled as a drink, sometimes called "melon tea." (The gourd itself is not naturally sweet, but is often prepared with sweetener, as in the beverage, or when used in dense mooncakes, popular during autumn's Zhongqiu Festival.)

The lively packaging on this box caught my eye, and I snatched it up for $1.75 at a no-English-name market in New York's Chinatown (similar canned variations appeared in most spots I ducked into that afternoon). Mostly clear with a green tint, the liquid inside this neat little box is kind of like the East Asian version of Hi-C's Ecto Cooler. The flavor is slightly grassy and sweet—like an odd blend of honeydew-melon rind and mild squash—with a slick and syrupy mouth feel. Weird, yet appealing. Not sure about drinking it through a bendy straw from a juice box, though...

Check out a wax-gourd drink for yourself by swinging through your local Asian grocer, or have some delivered directly through one of my favorite international online supermarkets, eFoodDepot.com.

About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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