A Must Try Iconic Chinese Soup — Winter Melon Bowl
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 in summer.
Winter melon cup is a traditional Chinese dish, which uses winter melon as a container to hold other ingredients for cooking. It is usually a light, refreshing soup dish with a unique texture and taste.
The characteristic of the winter melon cup is light and refreshing, and the soup is delicious. Winter melon soup is very popular in southern China, especially in summer, because winter melon has the effect of clearing away heat and relieving heat, which can cool down the heat. It is a popular summer dish and a part of Chinese food culture.
Winter melon soup is one of the most well-known traditional soups in the Guangdong province of 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 flavor mixes with the other ingredients. After cooking, the soup has the fragrance of the melon while the melon mesocarp has the fillings’ flavors incorporated within. This entire process would take about 4 to 5 hours to complete.
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! According to the “Shennong Ben Cao Jing” (Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica) records: Winter melon has a slightly cold nature, with a sweet and mild taste, non-toxic. It has the ability to clear the lungs, transform phlegm, relieve restlessness, quench thirst, eliminate dampness, relieve summer heat, and promote urination. 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.
Benefits in Summer
As mentioned earlier, the many medicinal values of winter melon are what bring it praise. There are several benefits to eating winter melon in summer:
- Heat relief: Eating winter melon helps to cool down and relieve heat during the hot summer months. Winter melon is a hydrating vegetable with a cooling nature, which helps regulate body temperature and alleviate heat.
- Diuretic and reducing swelling: Winter melon is rich in potassium, which has diuretic properties. It aids in removing excess water and waste from the body, reducing swelling and providing a refreshing sensation.
- Hydration and nutrition: With a water content of over 90%, winter melon is a natural source of hydration during summer. Consuming winter melon effectively replenishes the body’s water needs, prevents dehydration, and provides vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and citrulline.
- Heat-clearing and detoxifying: Winter melon has heat-clearing and detoxifying properties. It helps eliminate heat toxins from the body, purify the blood, and improve skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
- Digestive aid: Winter melon contains abundant dietary fiber, which promotes normal digestion and reduces constipation, contributing to a healthy digestive system.
* It is important to note that for certain individuals, such as those with weak spleen and stomach, diarrhea, or cold constitution, consuming winter melon may not be suitable or should be done in moderation.
For more information about the health benefits of winter melon, check out the article “11 Amazing Benefits of Winter Melon”