A white gourd, dongah belongs to the Cucurbiaceae family. It is an annual vine native to tropical Asia with a circular or oval shaped fruit. The plant has alternate, heart-shaped serrated leaves. Large speciments of the white gourds can reach 30 cm in diameter and 60-90 cm long, weighing 7.5-10 kilograms. Dongah arrived in Korea after being imported from China, at least as early as the Joseon Dynasty. There are many Korean recipes that make use of this gourd that include dongah in the name, such as: donghwaseon, donghwanureumi, donghwajeok, donghwajeung and donghwadonchae. It was also historically documented as having medicinal effects in reducing phlegm and treating coughs, as well as having a diuretic effect and anti-inflammatory properties.
It is often used to make relish, kimchi or porridge. It can also boiled or used as ingredient in baked goods. Dongah is also used to make a typical conserve of white gourd preserved in honey. Aged dongah is cut into thin strips, boiled and left to rest in limewater for two days. Then honey is added and this mixture is boiled down. Dongah preserved in honey was considered a luxury snack, and a well-known bit of folklore said that one would end up on the bad side of their mother-in-law if they did not bring her this snack. Another typical product made with this gourd is jangajji, or pickled dongah, that would also be served to important guests.
Dongah could historically be found in the area of Gyeonggi-do, and today is still cultivated in Namyangju, mainly for personal consumption. Usage of dongah in South Korean cooking has decreased in recent years. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was a common agricultural crop, but the number of farmers still growing this variety is declining.