Winter Melon Stew or Soup or Stir-fry, 冬瓜盅

My quest for melon and squash continues...

Winter Melon is considered "cooling"/Yin food - cooling and/or moistening for the body. Apart from Vitamins C, B1, B2, dietary fiber, calcium, it also contains a unique compound - tartronic acid, that neutralizes the food-carbohydrates in the body and prevent the carbo from turning into fats. Another vegetable/plant that contains tartronic acid is cucumber. As a result, there are people who consume cucumber as a form of dieting. This acid is destroyed under heat though, so by cooking these plants/vegetables, I reckon the "diet-effect" is gone. But you still get the other benefits. You can get Winter Melon from Asian grocery stores in the US such as 99 Ranch.

Love the snowy white flesh
The possible reasons why it is called Winter Melon (冬瓜, Dong Gua) despite its love for warm weather: they are harvested in early winter, can be kept through winter, and the actual harvest typically sees a layer of "white ash or wax" on the melon which resembles frost.

This is not the kind of clear soup made out of a melon but with the meat simmered at low heat rendering it moist and juicy, the soup becomes similar to kinda stew. Not your usual heavy stew under slow-cooking. Also not a quick stir-fry of fast cooking. Somewhere in the middle.

Winter Melon "Stoup" 冬瓜盅
Ingredients: 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, 1tsp minced ginger; 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce; 1/2 lb minced meat (chicken), lightly marinated with Chinese cooking wine and soy sauce; 4 fresh Shitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced; 1/2 winter melon, peeled, seeds removed, keeping "white flesh"; 1 tsp gojiberries, re-hydrated in water; pinch of brown sugar; salt and white pepper to taste

Directions: Heat oil in pan and fry ginger and garlic till fragrant. Add in meat and fry till meat is partially cooked. Dish out and set aside. Add in mushrooms and fry till fragrant, mixing well with ginger and garlic, adding in 2 tbsp of water/stock if mixture is too dry while frying. Add in about 2 cups of water, then add in winter melon and return the minced meat to the mixture** and allow winter melon to simmer in mixture gravy. Allow the entire mixture to simmer at low heat till winter melon turns from "white" to "translucent". Add in gojiberries. Also add in brown sugar, then pinch of salt and white pepper to taste. Turn off heat and serve immediately. Drizzle 1-2 drops of sesame oil for final touch if you wish.

**Cooking Tip: For more flavors infusion, you can retain the melon "shell' by scooping out the flesh from the melon like what I have done. Halfway in the cooking process (say after "Adding water, then add in melon and meat for it to simmer..."), turn off heat from pan and dish out entire mixture to the hollowed melon. Then prepare to steam. Steam the mixture to cook which will take approximately about 10-15 minutes but longer for about 20 minutes if you want it more flavorful and "stew-like" - almost like slow-cooking! or "double-boiling"? Add gojiberries, then pinch of brown sugar, salt and white pepper to taste at the final moment of steaming...

So so yummy with steamed rice. I think I can have the above all by myself as one-dish.

How about Winter Melon, if you do not enjoy Bitter Melon?

This is some Winter Melon goodness for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted at Palachinka this week.

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