This winter melon soup idea came from my last visit to Chinatown, Las Vegas. I was looking at the Sam Woo's Chinese BBQ menu when I saw a few different offerings of winter melon soups. The menu at Sam Woo's is quite extensive and it has many authentic Chinese entrees that are rarely seen on menus in America.
I have liked winter melon soup since I was a kid, but I have only ever had plain chicken broth winter melon soups in restaurants. I decided to order the duck and BBQ pork at Sam Woo's that night in Las Vegas, but I was very close to ordering winter melon soup instead.
The next day, I still craved winter melon soup, but I was on my way to the airport. Ce est la vie! After flying back to Chicago, I stopped by a local Chinese market to buy a few food items. I spotted a piece of winter melon and it was the last section of winter melon that they had in stock. Soon, I was craving winter melon no more!
I have posted a couple of winter melon soups in my past blog entries. I thought that beech mushrooms (shimeji) and surimi would be nice mild flavors to add to a winter melon soup. Shimeji mushrooms have a light nutty flavor when cooked. Shimeji mushrooms have a bitter flavor when raw, so they are almost always served hot. The decorative fancy surimi that I bought in Chinatown, Las Vegas added a nice flavor to this winter melon soup. This simple soup turned out to be very nice!
Winter Melon Soup with Shimeji and Surimi:
This recipe makes 1 large serving of soup! Winter melon grow up to eight feet long and they are usually sold as cut sections at a market. The flavor is very mild and savory when it is cooked.
Boil 3 cups of clarified chicken broth or consomme in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
Add 1 minced garlic clove.
Cut the rind and seed pulp off of a thick slice of winter melon.
Cut the winter melon flesh into large bite size cube shaped pieces. About 1 1/2 cups of winter melon pieces will be needed.
Add the winter melon pieces to the boiling chicken broth.
Add 10 to 15 whole white shimeji (white beech mushrooms) to the pot.
Add sea salt and white pepper.
Add 1 small pinch of five spice powder.
Boil the soup, till the winter melon pieces just begin to turn clear around the edges.
Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
Simmer the soup till the winter melon cubes turn, translucent and clear.
Note: Do not stir the soup after the winter melon becomes tender! The winter melon does become very soft and delicate.
Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
Place a few very very thin slices of fancy surimi on top of the soup.
Place a few cilantro leaves on top of the soup before serving.
Winter melon and chicken broth are two flavors that are perfect with each other. It is important to not over season a delicate flavored winter melon soup. The mild nutty flavor of the shimeji mushrooms add such a delicate depth to this soup. The mushrooms do sink to the bottom of the broth after cooking, so it is difficult to see them. Yum! ... Shawna