Winter melon soup is one of those classic Chinese soups which Chinese matriachs and mothers have prepared for their households and families for generations. Learning how to prepare this was considered essential, almost a necessity, if one were to know her place and way around the kitchen in the old days.  Times have changed, needless to say, but this soup still remains just as relevant, and is full of nutritional goodness.

Traditionally, winter melon is paired with chicken in soup, but as chicken has warming properties, I use pork in this version for its neutral nature and sweet flavour.  This soup is meant to clear heat and detoxify the body, due to the therapeutic attributes of the ingredients used.


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. In this recipe, barley is added for its supplementing cooling properties as well.  Barley is believed to promote diuresis, strengthen the spleen, benefit the gall bladder and rid the body of toxins (source:

Dried squid and dried scallops will greatly enhance the flavour of the soup, particularly if you are using water as the stewing medium. Chicken stock as the stewing liquid will significantly improve the taste of the soup as it adds sweetness and depth to the soup’s flavour.


This recipe serves 3 to 4 persons.


300 gm Winter Melon, skin removed, cut into bite-size chunks

1 tbsp Barley*, washed
2 Carrots, peeled, cut into bite-size chunks
1/4 piece of 1 Dried Squid (or 5 Dried Oysters), washed
2 Dried Scallops, washed and soaked in water till slightly softened
1 tbsp Bitter Almonds
12 Red Dates

300 gm Pork Ribs

Chicken Stock or Water
Sea Salt, to taste

*Tip: Raw barley is used when stewing soups, and not small barley.  The latter produces a sticky, mushy texture when stewed, and is inferior to raw barley.


1.  Fill a saucepan or small pot with water and bring to a boil.  Put in pork ribs and blanch for a minute or so to remove impurities. Discard the water and wash the meat clear of all scum.

2.  Put all the ingredients into a pot. Pour in chicken stock or water until just enough to immerse all the ingredients. Bring all the ingredients in stock or water to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer for at least 3 to 4 hours, or until meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Season to taste.  Serve hot or warm.