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Winter melon is one of the most popular Chinese vegetables and a favorite Chinese food; it is good for eliminating body heat in the summer. Winter melon requires very warm weather to grow, but can be stored for many months. It is commonly eaten throughout the winter in China, as few vegetables are available during this time. Hence, its Chinese name literally means “winter melon.” However, winter melon has a very mild taste, so it’s hard to make it into a flavorful soup unless you add in extra ingredients.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1.5 lb (700 g) winter melon. Peel off the green skin, discard the seeds, and cut the white part into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.
- 3 pieces dried scallops (If you don’t have dried scallops, use 8 oz crab meat instead)
- 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 5-6 medium-size shrimp
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 stalks scallions, cut into small pieces
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- Salt, a dash
- 1/2-inch (1.2 cm) piece of fresh ginger, cut into thin pieces. Ginger helps get rid of the “fishy” taste.
- 1/2-inch (1.2 cm) of coriander (optional)
- White pepper (optional)
- Soak the dried scallops overnight, and tear into really small pieces by hand. If you use crab meat instead, rinse and drain. Put it aside.
- Soak dried shiitake mushrooms until soft. (It takes at least 30-40 minutes with hot water, or 2-3 hours with warm water, to soften the dried shiitake mushrooms) Then cut the shiitake mushrooms into small strips. Put these aside.
- Use a big pot, add 6 cups of chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Add winter melon cubes, dried mushrooms, ginger, and shredded dried scallops (If you use crab meat, add it later). After it returns to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
- Turn the heat back to high, add shrimp and crab meat, cook for about 2-3 minutes until the prawns and the crab meat are cooked.
- Add cornstarch to a small bowl, mix it well with 3 tbsp of water. Add the mixture to the soup. After it returns to a boil, turn off the heat.
- Taste the soup and add salt and white pepper if needed.
- Add chopped coriander. Mix well and discard the ginger pieces.