Winter Melon Soup in a Whole Winter Melon

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a first course.

Appears in

Chinese Technique

By Ken Hom

Published 1981

  • About

This soup actually steams in the melon while the melon itself steams, producing a light, delicate broth. Most winter melons are too enormous to be manageable in a home kitchen, though a 4-pound melon fits neatly in an 8-quart pot. If you can’t find a 4-pounder, cut a 3-pound piece of winter melon into 1-inch cubes, add it to the broth with the other ingredients, and steam or simmer the soup for 40 minutes. For an unusual variation, substitute watermelon for winter melon.


  • 1 4-pound winter melon, or a 3-pound piece of winter melon
  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 8 fresh water chestnuts, peeled and sliced
  • 6 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, squeezed dry, and shredded
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons minced Smithfield ham


  1. Shave a thin slice from the bottom of the melon so that it will stand upright in a bowl.

  2. With a pencil trace a circle around the melon about a third of the way down from the top. With a sharp paring knife cut a zigzag along the line all the way around the melon. Gently pull to separate lid from base.

  3. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the base and top. The interior is rather like a pumpkin in texture but a little softer. Set the base on a bowl.

  4. Heat the broth with the chestnuts and mushrooms. Ladle it into the melon. Season lightly and replace the lid.

  5. Place a trivet or inverted heatproof bowl in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold the entire melon.

  6. Drape cheesecloth inside the pot but over the trivet. It should be long enough to extend over the lip of the pot on either side so that it can be used as a sling to lift the fragile cooked melon from the pot. Set the bowl containing the melon on the cheesecloth on the trivet.

  7. Add enough boiling water to the pot to come up almost to the base of the bowl. Cover the pot and let the melon steam over moderate or low heat for 1 hour, until the melon is tender.

  8. Lift the melon from the pot. Open the lid and add ¼ cup chopped Smithfield ham. Close the lid and bring the melon whole to the table.

  9. Scrape some of the melon into the broth as you serve it.