I only cook loofahs one way -- my grandma's way. Yes, this is the same loofah you can dry out and make into a sponge to scrub yourself with in the shower. But it's also a squash that's so naturally sweet it needs little else to make its flavors come through.
Like all grandmas, mine made culinary wonders that really can't be duplicated. Her specialty was banh nam, sort of like a flat Vietnamese dumpling except with rice flour, shrimp, and pork wrapped in banana leaves. No one else's tastes as good. And four years after my grandma is gone, I still can't eat it without crying. So I don't.
She also made banh it la gai, a mung bean-filled black rice dumpling. The black dough is made from nettle leaves that have been boiled and pureed until darkened. I can still picture my grandma sitting on the patio plucking the leaves while she planned all the treats she'd make for her family. Instead of taking a break to cook lunch, she asked me to make a simple loofah stir-fry for her. She claimed it was the best she'd ever eaten.
My youngest uncle's wife gave me several loofahs from their garden. Peel the outside. The spongy interior can be thinly sliced and sauteed or made into soup.
Muop Tom Xao (Vietnamese Loofah and Shrimp Stir-fry)
about half a dozen shrimp, peeled, deveined and coarsely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
dash of fish sauce
Peel, devein, and mince shrimp.
Add 1/2 tsp salt and mix. Set aside.
Peel loofah. Slice lengthwise. Then slice again horizontally as thinly as possible.
Add oil to hot pan. Add garlic and shrimp and saute until shrimp is half-cooked.
Add loofah and saute until loofah is softened and transparent.
Add fish sauce to taste.
Similar Vietnamese squash recipes:
Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
Canh Bi Tom (Vietnamese Winter Melon Soup with Shrimp)