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Sunday, June 12, 2011
WHAT IS CARALLUMA FIMBRIATA? CHONG - OUR UNIDENTIFIED 'VEGETABLE': HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF CARALLUMA FIMBRIATA: CHONG WITH MINCED BEEF RECIPE
Chong or perhaps chonga is used as a vegetable where we are in Pakistan, although it is not well known in other places it would appear. It is a strange-looking thing when you first see it sitting in a greengrocers, or at leas, we thought so. Neither of us had any idea what it was, so the vegetable seller kindly informed us that this was chong (in Urdu). Apparently it is called danda thor in Punjabi. I wanted to taste it, whatever it was, so my husband spoke with the greengrocer, who called his wife to ask her how to cook it. Her recipe is given below.
We have been trying to find out what it is called in English for about a year, and finally discovered that it is a succulent cactus, having found photographs online. We know what it is used for here in this part of Pakistan, but were surprised when we discovered that it is used for weight loss in the West. A friend told us that when he was younger he would pick this plant and eat it raw as he was walking as it stopped his hunger and quenched his thirst too. I later found that tribal people have used it for centuries to quell hunger on a day’s hunt.
Our greengrocer says that it is good to purify the blood when it is eaten as a green vegetable (although it is bitter like karella or bitter melon, so the juice needs to be removed prior to cooking) and it is also good for skin problems and diabetes. It can be made into a pickle or chutney, but we have only eaten it cooked, as the juice is very bitter.
It is a member of the Asclepiadaceae family, so is a relative of Indian sarsaparilla, and has star-shaped flowers which are unpleasantly pungent, but which are very attractive as they can be purple, black, yellow, tan maroon, red or black. Here they grow on the mountains although in India they grow more freely it would seem, on any patch of waste land. We didn’t see them in other parts of the Punjab, but that may be because the people of Lahore think they are too sophisticated to eat what other websites say is “famine” food. Here it is sold at the greengrocer’s when it is in season and it is expensive as, like kachnar buds and falsa it is picked by hand and those that pick it might have to spend a long time looking for spots in which it grows.
Studies have been done which seem to prove that little chong is a great aid to weight loss diets, as it contains HCA10 (hydroxyaltrate) which has been proved to contribute to weight loss without stimulating the central nervous system as some weight loss drugs do.
It contains pregnane glycosides which appear to block the activity of citratelyase which is an enzyme that builds fat in the body and also it may block the activity of Melonyl Coenzyme A which means that fat formulation and build up is also blocked, so the body is compelled to burn off the fat reserves it has accumulated so speeding up the body’s fat loss. Furthermore these glycosides may inhibit the hunger sensory mechanism which is found in the hypothalamus, a “primitive” part of the brain.
Chong also combats fatigue, so you can use it without feeling a loss of energy and you get lean muscle mass by eating it regularly. Trials reported weight loss after 1 month of taking capsules containing Caralluma fimbriata. Hopefully, when this is proved, people will start growing their own chong as I wouldn’t want to be deprived of this vegetable because it is a weight loss product for obese Westerners.
½ kilo chong
1 tbsp salt
½ kilo minced beef
2 onions, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely shredded
6 green chillies, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
8 whole black peppercorns
1 tbsp chilli powder
salt to taste
1 cup oil
To prepare the chong: -
Wash the chong very well and separate the pieces, discarding the root. Pound it a little but not too much, then put one tablespoon of salt over it and rub it into the pieces of chong with you hands, so that it is well mixed into it. Leave this for half an hour to remove the bitter juices.
After half an hour, squeeze the chong to remove the excess juices. Then wash it in cold water two or three times so that all the bitter juices are removed. Put it in a strainer or sieve and leave to drip.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the garlic, ginger, black peppercorns and cumin seeds, and fry them for 30 seconds then stir in the onion and fry this for 1 minute. Add the minced beef and green chillies, stir and fry for 5 minutes.
Pour in 1 cup of water the turmeric, ajwain or thyme, chilli powder, coriander seeds and salt to taste. (Remember that some salt will have remained on the chong, however well you washed it.)
Cook this until the water is gone, then add the chong and tomatoes, stirring well to mix. Cook this still stirring for 5 – 7 minutes.
Add 2 glasses of water the lemon juice and the garam masala, stirring to mix.
Cover the pan and let it cook for ½ hour over a low heat or until all the water has gone and the oil floats to the top.
Remove from the heat, and then add the fresh coriander, cover for a few minutes so that the flavours mingle and settle and serve with naan or chapattis.
To get the best out of this dish, serve with natural yoghurt.
This has Taste and is a Treat.