Sharkfins in Melon?
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 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.
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]