Stir-fried Female Pumpkin Flowers with Garlic (Bí Nụ Xào Tỏi)

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  • 2Servings
  • 15 mPrep Time
  • 5 mCook Time
  • 20 mReady In
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In Vietnamese, “bông bí“, which literally means “pumpkin flowers” (and sometimes zucchini flowers), are actually male flowers. And “bí nụ“, which literally means “pumpkin buds”, are actually female pumpkin flowers. A female pumpkin flower has a young or baby pumpkins which is freshly developed and the flower petals. Female pumpkin flowers are harvested when the pumpkins or squashes are very young and small, just a little bigger than a thumb.

male pumpkin flowers
male pumpkin flowers

Both male and female pumpkin flowers are consumed as a vegetable in Vietnam. Previously, only male flowers were harvested because it would not affect the crops. But nowadays, female pumpkin flowers are also harvested, and some farmers grow pumpkin plants only for these freshly-developed pumpkins.

Female pumpkin flowers
Female pumpkin flowers – bí nụ

Basically, the cooking methods of male and female pumpkin flowers are similar. They are all often stir-fried with garlic, beef, dried shrimps. Male pumpkin flowers can be stuffed with pork, but female flowers can be rolled in beef slices.

Stir-fried Female Pumpkin Flowers with Garlic in a Vietnamese restaurant.

Today, female pumpkin flowers are a highly-prized vegetable in many restaurants in Vietnam.


Step by step method

  • Preparing the pumpkin flowers

    Remove the stems of the flowers, and cut the flowers (including the baby squash) in halves. Remove the inner pistil. Rinse and drain.

  • Blanching the pumpkin flowers

    Bring a pot of water (1/3 of the pot) on medium heat to a boil, then add the flowers to blanch. Bring the water to a boil again, then turn off the heat and do an ice bath.

  • Stir-frying

    Heat 2 TB of cooking oil in a pan. Add 1 TB minced garlic to sautee. Add the blanched female pumpkin flowers and stir slightly for 1-2 mins. Season with 1 TB of fish sauce, 1/2 TB of sugar. Finally, stir-fry for another 2-3 mins until the seasonings are dissolved. Taste and re-season if necessary.

Tips & variations

  • This dish is served with white rice, and a bowl of garlic-chili fish sauce

  • Blanching with an ice bath helps making the flowers crunchier.

  • You can cook with male flowers, but the texture is different. Male flowers are softer.

  • Beef version: Marinate the beef with ginger and seasonings first, and then stir-fry until the beef is nearly cooked (Stop when the beef changes color) then set aside. In a new pan, stir-fry the flowers, then add the beef back, and cook a little bit.

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