A Must-Try Iconic Chinese Soup:
By: Ruby Liu
In traditional Chinese culture, many foods are eaten during different seasons to maximize their nutrients. One of the most iconic dishes that demonstrate this practice is winter melon soup.
Winter melon is actually a squash but resembles something closer to a gourd. Native to South Asian and Southeastern Asia, winter melon grows around the world, including in Europe, the United States, and Australia. It has a hard, thin, and chalky pistachio-coloured skin. The mildly flavoured white flesh inside has a texture resembling that of a watermelon.
Winter melon soup is one of the most well-known traditional soups in the Guangdong province in China. Its history began in the Qing dynasty as a royal dish made only for the imperial family. The palace chef would prepare it by halving it, scooping the seeds out, and carving magnificent designs into the melon’s skin. He would then combine chicken soup with diced chicken or pork, scallops, dried prawns, shiitake mushrooms and other high-quality ingredients. This concoction is poured back into the hollowed melon and the entire dish would be steamed until the melon flesh softens and its flavour mixes with the other ingredients. After cooking, the soup has the fragrance of the melon while the melon mesocarp has the fillings’ flavours incorporated within. This entire process would take about 4 to 5 hours to complete and not every chef could master this complicated recipe.
Winter melon soup eventually became available to the masses and received its widespread household name 冬瓜盅 (Dōngguā Zhōng). The name roughly translates to “winter melon bowl”. The most unique characteristic of this dish is that the “container” is edible! Today, this dish became known as one of “the wonders of the history of Chinese cooking and the beauty of the Chinese nation’s unique world of food” because of its medicinal properties and beautiful presentation. Although using winter melon in soups is common, there are other methods of preparing it. Stir-frying it with pork or chopping and candying it are other methods winter melon can be used.
As mentioned earlier, the many medicinal values of winter melon are what bring it praise. Here is a list of some of them.
- Winter melon has a variety of vitamins that help regulate the body’s metabolic balance to help with proper digestion and boost metabolism.
- Its high concentration of Vitamin B2 promotes the conversion of nutrients into effective energy rather than fat. This can aid with weight loss. Vitamin B2 also enhances eyesight.
- Winter melon is a cold ingredient in nature, which is associated with nourishing the stomach, lowering internal body heat and is best eaten in the summer and autumn.
- It has an anti-ageing effect when consumed long-term. It combats hypertension and inflammation, allowing for pale and smooth skin.
- Winter melon can quench thirst and has diuretic effects, meaning it flushes out excess toxins in the body.
- It contains low sodium so it is good for improving kidney and liver functions.
- Winter melon stimulates growth and development due to its high concentration of Vitamin C.
- It improves blood circulation, which directly benefits cognitive function.
- And lastly, it can help maintain cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure through dilating blood vessels with its natural source of potassium.
For more information about the health benefits of winter melon, check out the article “11 Amazing Benefits of Winter Melon”