Winter Melon Soup

Dunggua Tang

Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Dinner: Menu

    Szechwan is famous for its melons. Watermelon, as beloved in China as it is in America, is called xigua, or “Western melon,” in recognition of its Szechwanese origins. Mrs. Chiang’s family grew melon-like squashes and squash-like melons, big ones the size of pumpkins and tiny ones the size of cucumbers. Some were stir-fried with a little meat, some were steamed, and some of the best were used in soups, lovely delicate soups with tender bits of cooked melon floating in them.

    Because winter melons are an important ingredient in Cantonese haute cuisine, they are one of the few Szechwanese melons that can be bought here. A whole winter melon, hollowed out and filled with a light, clear soup, is the piece de resistance of many a Cantonese banquet. Since winter melons rival the largest pumpkins in size, it is difficult to produce soup on this scale in a home kitchen. Fortunately, Chinese markets sell winter melon by the slice, so you can turn it into a more modest, though no less delicious, soup.

    Method

    Preparation and Cooking

    4 cups water Bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
    1 medium pork chop (for a yield of ¼ pound meat, approximately) Cut the meat and fat off the bone; discard the fat and cut the meat into ½ inch cubes. Add the meat to the boiling water. (You can also add the bones – they give the stock more body — but remember to remove them before you serve the soup.)
    ½ pound slice winter melon Cut the rind off the melon, then cut the flesh into cubes about ¾ inch in diameter. Add these to the soup.
    1 tablespoon salt Add the salt to the soup, then let the soup boil gently for 25 minutes.
    2 scallions Clean the scallions, then cut them, both green part and white, crosswise into pieces as fine as possible. A few minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, add the scallions to it.

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    salt, if necessary

    Add the sesame oil to the soup, taste for salt, and serve.