Soft vegetable cubes almost like squash, translucent and light green, thick-textured yet silky to the touch, was steamed then slathered in butter which melted right away on the whole dish. The steamy vapors from the vegetable, smelled of a garlic-buttery saltiness and was perfect with the aroma of boiled jasmine white rice which was waiting next to the platter.
Sayote steamed in butter has always been one of my favorite vegetables. My mom used to serve it to us often when I was a child. I remember how good its soft, buttered cubes tasted paired with a garlicky-vinegary adobo dish, Filipino style. Oh, this was always one of the best home cooked meals hands down.
Sayote (say ‘sa-yo-teh’ ) is the Filipino term for the chayote, the vegetable that’s botanically a fruit. It belongs to the same family as those of the squash. It grows in warmer climates, typically South America and in Mexico. It also grows abundantly in the Philippines.
Sayote was defined as a “mirliton pear, a light green, oval fruit that becomes soft and bland when cooked” by the late Professor Doreen G. Fernandez, pioneer food writer in her book “Sarap: Essays on Philippine Food”.
The Spanish term is “chayote” and it is shaped like a pear, has a tough, yet smooth light green outer skin. When peeled, the inside reveals an opaque lighter green thick flesh, with a white membrane that has tiny seeds embedded within. I just peel it, slice it with a large, sharp knife and remove the seeds. Once sliced and cubed, it is easy and quick to cook. When the sayote is cooked like a vegetable , it has a light, bland flavor, similar to the squash or gourd. When boiled, steamed or sauteed in onions and garlic, the flavors add an interesting dimension to the dish.
When my kids were growing up, I always made them vegetable dishes to go alongside a main entrée. The sayote, steamed then slathered with butter has always been a reminder of my childhood, which I gladly passed on to my sons. This dish can be a side or a main course in itself. You’ll enjoy the buttery broth that’s flavored with the onions and garlic it was cooked in. Throw it on cups of rice and enjoy the simple goodness of this sayote steamed in butter. Or pack some steamed sayote in the kids’ lunchboxes along with rice or leftover adobo. It will be healthy, heavenly, and simply superb! This recipe serves two.
- sayote or chayote - 1 whole, peeled, seeded, cubed, about 1 1/4 cup (from Asian markets)
- onion - 1 medium, sliced thin
- garlic - 2 cloves, minced
- black pepper corns - 1/2 teaspoon
- black pepper powder - 1 teaspoon
- salt - 1 teaspoon
- butter or margarine - 1 Tablespoon
- boiled jasmine white rice - for serving
- scallions - 1/2 cup chopped, for garnish
- water - 1/3 cup
- In a small saucepan, put together the sayote/ chayote cubes, water, onion, garlic, black pepper powder, pepper corns, salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for ten minutes or till sayote cubes are soft.
- When the sayote/ chayote is fork-tender, while still hot, add the butter and mix well. The butter should melt in the hot bed of vegetables and spread all over.
- Serve hot with boiled jasmine white rice. Garnish with chopped scallions.
- COOK'S COMMENTS: If serving to little children, you can omit the black peppercorns and minimize the black pepper to just a sprinkle. I recall my own kids did not care for "those round black things" when they were little.
- Ingredient availability: The chayote is available in most Asian groceries or major supermarkets, in the ethnic vegetable aisle, almost year round.