Winter melon, also referred to as fuzzy melon or white gourd, is a native vegetable to the Southeast Asia region. Cambodians, Vietnamese and Chinese all make their own variety of winter melon soup, touting it’s health properties; it’s full of Vitamin C, Zinc, Calcium and Iron. As a child, I never really cared for this soup; but then again, I really didn’t care much for any type of vegetable. But I had it for dinner a few weeks ago, and was really stunned at the mildly sweet flavor of the melon. It was actually pretty good. And I do realize it’s summertime, but the soup is actually pretty refreshing. The Chinese do believe that this vegetable has properties that help cool the body. So here’s my rendition of this old classic.
Serving Size: 4
Cook Time: 20 minutes
8 cups of cold water
4 cups of winter melon (1 large winter melon), peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/2 thick pieces
1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined, and roughly chopped (reserve the shrimp peels in a separate bowl)
1 lb of freshly ground pork
a handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 tbsp of sea salt
2 tbsp of freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp of fish sauce
In a 5 qt soup pot, place all the reserved shrimp peels and add the cold water and 1 tbsp of salt, stirring mixture well. Heat the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. While waiting for water to boil, in a mixing bowl, combine the shrimp and pork and mix well. Take about 1 heaping tablespoon of the mixture and form into meatballs. Once the broth has come to a boil, remove all the shrimp peels and reduce heat to medium low.
Add the sliced winter melon to the broth and cook for 10 minutes till the winter melon are tender. Add the shrimp/pork meatballs, black pepper and fish sauce. Cook for another 10 minutes until the meatballs are done. Toss in the chopped cilantro and the soup is ready to be served.
The soup should have a very mild but balanced flavor. The broth should help to enhance the sweet flavor of the winter melon while there’s a slight briny shrimp flavor in the background; and the meatballs add the necessary texture to make the soup a hearty meal. I love the fresh cilantro at the end, it helps make the soup taste super fresh and perfect, even for the summertime.