Sunday, June 05, 2005

Sharkfins in Melon?

My family is Cantonese, and with that statement, I have declared to the world at large that we are soup fiends. Soup has always been the mainstay of our family dinners. My childhood memories are vivid with images of mum chasing me around the living room, dining room, garden etc. to spoonfeed me with the required amount of rice, protein and vegetables BUT the minute she produced that bowl of soup, I would rush to her side and gulp the whole thing down without protest. The easiest and tastiest thing to drink up and as far as mum was concerned, full of nutrients for easy digestion.

When I moved away from home during my university days and in my early years of work, I suffered horribly from 'soup-deprivation' and found little satisfaction in the weak watered-down versions that were served in the campus canteen and in the hawker centers. With mum being hundreds of miles away in another country, I was forced to begin my own journey into the realm of soup. And I've never looked back since then with each simmered soup being an adventure in taste.

Sharkfin MelonSharkfin Melon Recently while browsing in the local supermarket, I came across this melon which looks like a winter-melon but has distinctive white stripes extending from the base and a green-speckled skin not unlike a watermelon. It's called a 'sharkfin melon', as the cooked flesh of the melon breaks away into strands which appear like strands of shark's fins. I couldn't resist and hauled one home.

Here, I have to state that Chinese soups do not require much skill, just time and lots of patience. The soup base for my sharkfin melon was soft pork bone with lots of meat attached. First, place pork bones in half a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. The water is then discarded together with the scum, and this extra step helps to remove the excess oil in the soup. Refill pot with at least 5 cups of water (1 cup for each person with another 2 cups for boiling down), bring to the boil and add the soft pork bone, half of the sharkfin melon (remove rind and cut into large chunks), 2 carrots (also cut into large chunks) and a few slices of old ginger. Once the soup has reached a rolling boil (about 10 minutes or so), reduce heat to the slowest fire and simmer away for the next one and a half to two hours (depending on how hungry you get). The best part of making soup is the ability to walk away and do all kinds of other stuff at home, knowing that you just need to check in an hour or so later. The very last step to the soup is to add salt to taste just before serving.

Sharkfin Melon Soup The first sip of a steaming hot soup is the most important for it sets the stage for the senses to awaken as it warms the stomach. The sweetness of the carrots and the sharkfin melon together with the 'essence' of the tender pork bones come together beautifully in the soup, and now, if we can only convince the sharkfins' diners to migrate from the real thing to these tasty strands of melon!

[post-script - I have discovered another delicious way to serve shark fin's melon, take a peek at my latest post "Steamed Strands of Wonder" - 30 Dec 2005]

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg, i love those sharkfin melons... the texture is just great!

6/08/2005 03:35:00 AM  
Anonymous gwenda said...

hehe when i was younger i used to get such a thrill eating sharksfin melon! but it's also scrummilicious too!

6/09/2005 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i havent tried sharkfin melon soup before but i love winter melon. is so true the first sip was memorable but the rest...history. i'm not really a soup person, but i wouldnt resist something to do with clear soup. i'm not pork eater either but i must admit that using pork bones always like you said brought out the 'essense'. i still think that using pork bones is better than chicken bones. do you think so?

6/10/2005 02:16:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

Hi Anon 1 - when I first tasted sharkfin melon some months back in a soup restaurant, I was really intrigued and have been searching the supermarkets since then to find this melon (not that easy to find, as it's not as common as the winter melon).

Hi Gwenda - thanks for dropping by..

Hi Anon 2 - winter melon is nice too but it's the texture of the sharkfin melon after cooking that's really cool! I too prefer soft pork bones for soups which are simmered with melons, carrots, corn, fruits, vegetables etc but chicken (especially free-range chicken) is much better when simmered with traditional Chinese herbs.

6/10/2005 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Marcela said...

Hi Catherine, I've just discovered your post about "shark fin melon" soup. It's so interesting for me, because I'm gathering in a map information about the uses all over the world of Cucurbita ficifolia, which happens to be... shark fin melon.
I'm intrigue if this an usual ingredient in cantonese kitchen, a recently introduced one or just limited to fusion kitchen.
In South America (and in Spain too) we use this kind of melon mostly for a kind of marmelade called cabello de ángel (angel's hair).
I'm delighted of the idea of tasting the recipe with mushrooms of the other post too...
Best wishes,
Marcela

7/15/2008 09:04:00 PM  

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