Learn how to cook Chinese winter melon soup recipes. It resembles a quiet giant bringing comfort and health. I hope you will try it out if you haven’t.
Featured image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/damten/6243843023
What is a winter melon?
Known as 冬瓜 (dong gua) in mandarin, it is a fairly big round fruit with dark green skin. It looks like a watermelon but is actually a squash. Although it is called the winter melon, it is actually a summer fruit. Strange huh? There is another variety with tough brown skin. Whatever the skin colours, the flesh is pale white in with seeds in the center.
Sizes vary greatly so sometimes supermarkets may sell them in pre-cut sections. Sections are usually cling or shrink wrapped. If buying in sections, then choose those with firm white flesh. 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.
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 steamed or stir-fried.
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 and is suitable for diabetic 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 according to the recipe. Remove the seeds. I usually cook it with the skin on, but you can remove them if you want.
If you bought a whole melon. Rinse the skin under the tap. Cut into half. Use a big spoon to scoop out the seeds, then cut into desired sizes.
That’s it. The preparation is quite straightforward.
Winter Melon Soup Recipes
Winter melon soup is reputed to be good for weight loss and anti-swelling.
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
Recipe 2: Winter melon soup with pork
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
- 400ml water
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)
- 800ml water
- 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.
Recipe 5: Steamed winter melon soup
This recipe came from Terry Tan’s The Asian Cook [https://amzn.to/4568A4H]. More details about this book is in my recommended culinary book list. I love it for its down-to-earth description of cooking tools and techniques as well as great looking food photos.
- 1 litre of water
- 100g Chinese pearl barley
- 200g chicken breast, cubed
- 100g cooked or chinese ham, diced
- 150 g canned lotus seeds, drained
- Salt and sugar to taste
- finely chopped spring onion to garnish
- 1 whole winter melon
- Bring water to boil, add the barley and simmer for 15 minutes
- Cut the top third of the winter melon to be used as a lid later on
- Scoop out the pith and the seeds as well as the flesh leaving about 2.5 cm thickness all the way around the inside of the shell
- Place the chicken, ham and lotus seeds in to the simmering barley and continue to cook for about 15 minutes
- Transfer everything into the melon shell. Be careful as it will be hot
- Add salt and sugar to taste
- Cover the melon with the lid
- Place the melon into a steamer (that is, a big wok with a metal tripod) with boiling water
- Steam for about 30 minutes
- Remove from steamer
- Garnish with spring onion and serve
Recipe 6: Winter melon recipe with straw mushrooms (Vegetarian)
This soup is suitable for people suffering from heat stroke and stuffiness due to summer heat.
- 80g straw mushrooms
- 150g winter melon
- 500ml vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper
- Cornstarch solution
- Dash of sesame seed oil
- Peel the winter melon, remove the seeds and cut into pieces
- Bring the stock to a boil
- Add the straw mushrooms, bring the soup back to a boil
- Add the winter melon, salt and stir to dissolve the salt
- Thicken the soup to desired consistency with the cornstarch solution
- Sprinkle dash of sesame seed oil before serving
Recipe 7: Winter melon recipe with konbu (Vegetarian)
- 200g winter melon
- 75g konbu
- 500ml water
- Salt and pepper
- Peel the winter melon and cut into small pieces
- Wash the konbu and cut into small pieces
- Bring the water and konbu to a boil, add the winter melon
- Let the pot simmer quietly for 40 minutes or till the melon is soft
- Add salt to taste before serving
I have one more winter melon soup recipe featuring ground pork meatballs, cilantro and lemongrass over at Chinese pork soup recipes.
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