Sayur Oyong: Luffa Gourd Soup

A light, clear luffa gourd soup that’s typical of Indonesian home cooking. The gourd is cooked with cellophane noodles, garlic, and mushroom bouillon. Beef balls can be added for extra protein.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Oyong (also known as gambas in Indonesia) is the unripe fruit of Luffa Acutangula, a climbing vine of the gourd family. The plant produces fruits that resemble zucchini or cucumber, with somewhat dull, thick, green skin and hard ridges. When young and unripe, beneath the hard skin is tender, slightly spongy and delicate white flesh. The young tender fruit is sold as vegetable and is widely appreciated not only throughout South and Southeast Asia, but also in other parts of the world such as Africa. This vegetable has many names, including angled luffa, ridge gourd, sponge gourd or Chinese okra to name a few, depending on the country.

The more mature the fruits, the tougher and more fibrous they become, to the point they are no longer edible. The old oyong fruits are often dried and used as natural cleaning sponges. You can buy them in bath and beauty shops as a loofah!

In Indonesia, oyong is a very common vegetable — you’ll find it everywhere and it grows throughout the year. In Singapore, this vegetable is available in places such as Little India or local supermarkets selling local produce. You can often buy the vegetables in a pack, already peeled and cut, ready to use. 


Preparing the Oyong

When buying fresh oyong, look for a fruit that’s small but heavy with unblemished, almost velvety skin. Peel off the tough outer skin and ridges using a knife or potato peelers. Wash the vegetable thoroughly and slice as you desire. This veggie needs only  brief cooking as it is already very tender. Fresh oyong is slightly sweet and mild in flavour.

Sayur oyong is a delicious soup and it’s very easy to make. This is typical Indonesian home cooking and a lot of Indonesian children (especially in Java) grow up with it, including me. Most of the time, no protein is included (which makes it suitable for vegans) and it’s still very flavourful. I guess the sauteed garlic makes everything taste good. If available, you can add baceman bawang to add more flavours to the dish.

This dish is best served with steamed rice, hence there’s only a small portion of the noodles, as they are just a part of the ingredients. If you prefer to eat the soup with ‘just’ the noodles (like I do), double the amount of the glass noodles. In fact, I use the leftover soup as the base of my noodle-soup for the next day. In that case, I just heat up the leftover soup and add the glass noodles. 

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Sayur Oyong: Luffa Gourd Soup

Sayur Oyong: Luffa Gourd Soup

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Soups & Stews, Vegetables, Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Sayur oyong is a light, clear luffa gourd soup that’s typical of Indonesian home cooking. The gourd is cooked with cellophane noodles, garlic, and mushroom bouillon. Beef balls can be added for extra protein. 


  • 1 luffa gourd (around 500 gr), peel the outer skin, slice
  • 10 beef meatballs, sliced into 3 parts (optional)
  • 25 gr cellophane noodles, soak in cold water for 10 minutes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, finely minced
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 tsp mushroom bouillon powder
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 800 ml water


  1. Fill a cooking pot with water, add the sliced beef balls, and bring to a boil.

    Boil the sliced beef balls

  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the minced garlic until fragrant and golden, around 2 minutes.

    sauté the minced garlic

  3. When the water is boiling, put the garlic and the oil into the soup.
  4. Add salt, white pepper powder and mushroom bouillon. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the soup is done. 
  5. Add the sliced luffa gourd, and cook for another 3 minutes. 

    Add the sliced luffa gourd

  6. Add the cellophane noodles, turn off the heat and cover the pot.
  7. Let the soup rest for another 10 minutes before serving. The noodles will continue to cook and soften.
  8. Ladle the soup into a serving bowl and garnish with fried shallots if available.


  • The beef balls can be omitted if unavailable.

Keywords: Quick and easy, non-spicy, healthy

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