Angled luffa (also called sinqua) is easy to spot at most Asian produce markets: look for a round, long, and dark green squash with tapered ends and thin ridges running its length. Select specimens that bend slightly; if they're stiff, they're probably old. The Xiongs use a sharp kitchen knife to cut away the skin; you may use a vegetable peeler. Some Hmong cooks don't stir this dish while it cooks, but John Xiong swears that doing so releases more of the squash's mildly sweet flavor.
- 2 large angled luffas (about 1 3⁄4 lbs.)
- 5 tbsp. peanut oil
- 3⁄4 lb. coarsely ground trimmed beef top round or sirloin
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, ends trimmed (leaving a 5"–6" piece), lightly crushed
- 2 sprigs thai basil