Winter melon soup is reputed to be good for weight loss and anti-swelling. This article presents 7 recipes, health benefits, buying and preparation tips.
What is a winter melon? It is called 冬瓜 (dong gua) in mandarin and is a fairly big round fruit with dark green skin. It looks like a water melon but is actually a squash. There is another variety with tough brown skin. Whatever the skin color, the flesh is pale white in colour with seeds in the center.
It has little taste but absorbs the flavours of the food it is cooked with. It is best in soups or stew although it can be stir-fried. Although it is called the winter melon, it is actually a summer produce. Strange huh.
Sizes vary greatly so sometimes supermarkets may sell them in pre-cut sections. Sections are usually cling or shrink wrapped.
If buying them whole, choose one with as little scratches, dents or marks on the skin. The winter melon peel is quite thin, so any damages on the skin may have also damaged the flesh. If buying sections, then choose those with firm white flesh.
Benefits of Winter Melon
Winter melon has a reputation in traditional Chinese medicine. It is a gentle diuretic and reduces swelling. It is suitable for people suffering from hypertension, kidney weakness and swelling.
It is high in Vitamin C, potassium, sodium, and a substance that can impede the conversion process of glucose into fat in the body. It is therefore thought to be a good weight loss food.
It has only about 2% sugars in it and is suitable for diabetes patients.
It is considered a cooling ingredient so it is not advisable to eat it raw. If you are thinking of juicing it, consider adding ginger, which is a warming ingredient.
How to prepare winter melon
I usually buy sections instead of a whole melon from the supermarket because I don't have a big family to feed. Remove the cling wrap and give it a good rinse under the tap. Cut into chunks or bite-sized pieces depending on the recipe. Remove the seeds. I usually cook it with the skin on but you can remove them if you want.
If you do buy a whole melon. Rinse the skin under the tap. Cut into half. Use a big spoon to scoop out the seeds, then cut into chunks of desired sizes.
That's it. The preparation is quite straightforward.
Winter Melon Soup Recipes
The melon can be simmered till really soft or use in quick boiling soup where it still has some crunch. For quick boiling, slice the melon into thin slices instead of chunks.
Paired with complementary Chinese herbs, it serves as anti-swelling tonics and summer heat relievers. Like these two below.
Recipe 1: Winter melon soup with Chinese pearl barley 薏米 and goji
This soup helps eliminate excess fluid from the body. It is also supposed to help whiten the skin and get rid of acne.
Chinese pearl barley helps to soothe the stomach and it is good if you have an easily irritable stomach. Omit the ginger if you really do not like it.
500g winter melon
1/2 cup of chinese pearl barley (coix seeds)
150g prime pork ribs
1 tbsp goji berries
2 slices ginger
1 litre water
Directions (Stove top)
Wash the barley and soak for about 1 hour
Wash goji and soak for 20 minutes
Parboil the pork ribs with the ginger, trim off any excess fats
Cut and clean the melon
Bring the 1000ml water to the boil, add the pork ribs, melon pieces, barley and the goji
Bring the water and ingredients back to the boil, then lower to a simmer
Simmer for 1 hour
Turn off heat and cover pot and let soup stand for 10 minutes
This is a healthy soup recipe for relieving the summer heat. Especially for those who feel thirsty all the time, has scanty urination and is experiencing a loss in appetite due to the heat.
50g coix seeds
3g dried tangerine peel 陈皮 (chen pi)
50g lean pork
500g winter melon
salt to taste
Directions (slow cooker)
Wash and cut the winter melon unpeeled into middle-sized chunks
Wash the pork and parboil
Rinse the dried tangerine peel
Wash and soak the coix seeds in cold water for 30 minutes
Place all the ingredients in an earthern pot (such as a claypot or slow cooker)
Add 400ml boiling water
Lower heat and simmer until contents are cooked
Add salt to taste before serving
Now for 2 recipes that are fairly quick.
Recipe 3: Winter melon recipe with dried shrimp
This soup is simple and relatively quick to prepare. For days when there's simply not enough time to simmer for over an hour.
Dried shrimps is a common Chinese soup base ingredient. Instead of using bouillon cubes, you can try these to flavour your soups. They are basically very small shrimps, shelled and dried thoroughly.
600g winter melon
60g dried small shrimps 虾米 (xia mi)
Salt to taste
Peel the melon. Remove seeds and cut into bite-sized cubes
Clean and wash the dried shrimps, soak in hot water for 20 mins
Bring the water to a boil, and add the dried shrimps and the water used to soak the shrimps
Let the shrimps boil for about 5 minutes
Add the melon and cook on medium high heat for 10 minutes or until the melon is cooked.
Recipe 4: Winter melon recipe with crab meat
Crab meat certainly goes well with winter melon. All the ingredients are diced so each spoonful will contain a bit of mushroom, melon, and crab meat. Add a little cornstarch solution to thicken the soup a little if you like. Oooh!
1 litre chicken stock
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms
450g winter melon
5 tbsp cooked crab meat
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp chopped coriander
Dash of white pepper
Peel and dice the melon
Soak and dice the mushrooms
Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot
Add the mushrooms and rice vinegar
Simmer for about 5 minutes
Add the winter melon pieces and cook for about 10 minutes
Add the cooked crab meat, stir and mix well
Add the coriander and pepper
In some Chinese restaurants, the round melon itself is used as a soup tureen.
Skilled chefs would make a cut near the top of the melon and remove the flesh. The outer skin is carved with fanciful motifs like dragons, phoenix and flowers. The soup is prepared normally and poured into the melon tureen.
The entire dish is then steamed till the tureen is cooked and then served. When the soup is ready, it is poured into the melon and served.
If you are game to try this, check out this recipe.
This recipe came from Terry Tan's The Asian Cook. More details about this book is in my recommended book list. I love it for its down-to-earth description of cooking tools and techniques as well as great looking food photos.
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