Wintermelon Soup II

Oh the weather outside is frightful!

Boston just had its first real official blizzard in five years (yes, since 2005!) the day after Christmas. Though travel was a nightmare for many (thankfully we were able to fly back with only a 2-hour delay), for others it was a chance to curl up at home and watch the white powder slowly cover the city in a thick blanket of silence.

To be honest, I love snow storms.

I love how everything comes to a halt during a snowstorm. Schools and businesses close. Busy city streets become eerily quiet. You’re forced to slow down from the craziness of everyday life and just wait the storm out.

It’s also the perfect opportunity to cook up something warm, restorative, and delicious.

I had winter melon left over from when I made the stop motion animation of Boston out of vegetables (our winter melon slice acted as the Longfellow Bridge!)

I’m not exactly sure why it’s called a winter melon, but doesn’t the melon look like it’s covered with freshly fallen snow?
Winter melon
You can get winter melon at Asian supermarkets. Because the melon is so gigantic, stores typically sell it by the slice. One slice is enough to make a nice big bowl of soup to serve at least four.

In the past, I have always made this soup using pork bones to make a pork-based broth (which is the tradition Asian way of making it). While that version is delicious, it does take more time. Furthermore, it’s not that easy to find pork bones all the time. (I couldn’t find it at Whole Foods last time I checked).

Stuck with the ingredients I had on hand at home, I made this new, simplified version that uses chicken broth and also adds bacon to the mix.

I loved this new version! The winter melon gives the soup a nice, clean flavor. The bacon adds a nice smokiness to the overall broth, which accentuates the chicken broth nicely.

The recipe below is just a guide. In general, winter melon soup is rather forgiving. As long as you have a soup base, winter melons, and some sort of umami ingredients (e.g., bacon, dried squid, shitake mushrooms), the soup will taste pretty good. I did not add aromatics, but I think a small bit of ginger or chopped scallions would also make this soup taste pretty good.

Winter Melon Soup
about 1 T dried squid, cut into 1-2 cm pieces
6-8 slices of bacon, cut into 3 cm pieces
1 large slice of winter melon, cut into 1-2 cm pieces (1-2 lbs)
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

Other optional ingredients
shitake mushrooms (sliced)
cilantro (garnish)
chopped scallions  (garnish)
ginger (1 inch piece, sliced or julienned)

Saute dried squid and bacon (and optionally mushrooms) with about 1 T oil for about 3-4 minutes, or until the bacon begins to render its fat and turns translucent. Add winter melon and fill up the pot with chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then back down to simmer. Cook at low heat for 30-40 minutes, or until the winter melon is nice and soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Optionally add garnishes.

Stay warm!

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  1. Kikukat says

    I buy winter melon when I see it at the local farmers market because it’s not easy to find. I cube it and freeze the cubes. When I make soup, I throw the frozen winter melon cubes into the soup and cook as usual.
    It’s been very cold (by Hawaii standards) recently so I made a pot of gai jow to warm us up and keep us healthy. It was nice having winter melon in it.

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