Every once in a while, I like to try variations of popular soup ingredients, as great flavours and textures can evolve from putting together different combinations of ingredients and condiments in Chinese soups.
Here is a winter melon soup, popular in Chinese cuisine, stewed with bean curd sticks, tofu, Chinese mushrooms, carrots, dried scallops and dried oysters.
The taste of winter melon flesh is quite bland, but it absorbs the flavours of the stewing medium beautifully so I always use home-cooked chicken stock when cooking this to enhance the soup’s sweetness and enrich its flavour. Home-made chicken stock or broth is great for just about anything – soup bases, stews, sauces, gravies and flavouring for stir-fries. I always make a stock or broth out of chicken bones and meat that is slow simmered with dried scallops and Chinese kam wah ham, for a much more earthy, robust and flavourful taste.
Winter melon, also known as ash gourd or winter gourd, has cooling properties and is often consumed to clear heat and phlegm from the lungs. It also detoxifies the body, promotes diuresis and reduces inflammation. Traditional Chinese practitioners use winter melon seeds in medications to resolve urinary problems, lower cholesterol and treat kidney disease.
This recipe serves 2 to 3 persons (source with modification: “Healthy Chinese Soups and Drinks” by author Susan Chan).
WINTER MELON WITH BEAN CURD & CHINESE MUSHROOM SOUP RECIPE
600 gm Winter Melon, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 kg Chicken Breast, or 500 gm Pork Ribs
6 Dried Chinese Mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes,
washed, drained, cut into halves
2 sticks Dried Bean Curd, soaked in water for 15 minutes, drained,
cut into 1-inch lengths
1-cm piece of Ginger, peeled and sliced
6 Dried Oysters, washed in hot boiled water
6 Dried Scallops, washed in hot water
1 carton (300 gm) Silken Tofu, cut into cubes
Chicken Stock or Water
Sea Salt and Pepper, to taste
1. In a small saucepan, bring water to boil and parboil the chicken breast meat or pork ribs for a few minutes to remove scum and grit. Discard the water, and wash well.
2. Place all ingredients (except tofu and salt) in a slow cooker. Add enough water or stock to cover the ingredients. Cook on Auto or High setting for at least 3 hours, or till winter melon is soft. If cooking in a deep pot, bring all the ingredients in stock or water to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for at least 2 to 3 hours, or till winter melon is soft.
3. Add tofu during the last 15 to 20 minutes of cooking. Season to taste. Serve hot or warm.