Misua Soup with Meatballs and Patola (Loofah)

I rarely buy this vegetable that is known in different names:  sponge gourd, vegetable sponge, Luffa acutangula, angled luffa, and more popularly, patola or loofah (lufah).  It was never part of my market list.  Surprisingly, when my mother made soup with patola a few months back, the kids actually liked it, and finished a bowl! My initial attempt to replicate was not encouraging, in short, it was blah.

Until recently, I never even attempted to prepare this soup again.  Bland and unappealing, I later found out that patola is rich in iron, calcium, and phosphorous.  

Misua (fine rice flour noodle) is also not my favorite type of noodle.  I prefer the firmer, wider varieties.   But after thinking about the week's menu and making our usual rounds at the grocery, this long, lean, firm, green gourd caught my eye from the produce section, and in an instant, I grabbed one and headed straight to the meat section for a quarter kilo of lean ground pork.

With my fresh young patola (it should be smooth, no hallow pockets and firm all over when pressed), ground pork, and a small pack of misua in the cart, I got one dish down.  It has been a while since the last failed attempt.  So yesterday, the kids and I had a satisfying lunch of beef short ribs adobo with this light and healthy soup, perfect even on a warm summer day.

Misua Soup with Meatballs and Patola (Loofah)

250g (1/4 kilo) lean ground pork
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrots
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 medium-sized white onion, minced
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

200g (approx. 1/2 of a 16-inch gourd) young patola, chopped to bite-size pieces
1/2 medium-sized white onion, chopped
125g misua (add more if desired)
1 1/2 to 2 liters water or chicken broth (water with chicken cube or soup base)
sesame oil

To prepare:
In a large pot, boil chicken broth.
While waiting for the broth to boil, prepare the meatballs.

To prepare the meatballs:
In a bowl, combine the meat, carrots, garlic, onion, and seasonings. You can use a fork, spatula, or simply mix by hand as I normally do. Add 1 egg which acts as the binder. Some may prefer to add breadcrumbs in the mixture, which is optional. Blend well.

Spoon and shape into small balls. You can prepare this ahead of time and freeze. I did not prepare the meatballs in advance and I just roughly shaped the meat mixture with a spoon as I drop them in the broth one after the other.

To cook:
As soon the broth reached a rolling boil, carefully drop the meatballs.
Cover the pot, lower fire to medium, and wait for at least 10 minutes. You will see the balls float as they are cooked.

Once the meatballs are all floating, pour in the chopped patola and onions.
Cover and let it cook for at least 5 minutes, or until patola is soft and tender.

Finally, add the misua. Stir and loosen the misua immediately as it will tend to clump together once its in the liquid. Then, add just a few drops of sesame oil. Stir. Leave for another 5 minutes before serving.

You can add liquid seasoning if you want flavor and make it a little more salty. Garnish with toasted shallots if desired.


Even for toddlers, parents can serve this wonderful soup as part of baby's first foods, introducing meat to your tykes.  This dish allows them to explore the different food textures from the minced meat, carrots, soft and fibrous patola, and starchy misua.  Just omit the spices from the recipe and remove the flat seeds from the patola as you feed your babies.  A bowl of this hearty soup is a complete meal by itself.

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