Steamed Strands of Wonder
If you say 'beehoon' (rice-flour thin noodles) or 'tunghoon' (glass noodles).... buzz... buzzz... buzzzzzing you out for the wrong answer! These translucent strands are actually from a melon!
I discovered Shark's fin melon (yu chi gua, in Cantonese) some months back, and have been happily using them in chinese-style brewed soups. A picture of this particular melon can be found in my previous post "Sharkfins in Melon?". Its moniker is probably derived from the fact that the cooked flesh of this melon separates into translucent strands, very akin to strands of shark's fin. Tastewise, though, it is actually quite different from real shark's fins, the latter being fishy/briny in flavor and slightly crunchy to the bite while the melon strands retain their melon flavor with texture that is somewhat like softened 'tunghoon' (glass noodles).
Recently, whilst flipping through local Chef Sam Leong's first cookbook offering A Wok Through Time, I was easily persuaded by his unusual way of serving Shark's Fin Melon with Nameko Mushrooms marinated with a sesame light soy sauce dressing. Without much ado, I was soon hauling back such a melon from the supermarket.
- Chef Leong's method calls for an entire melon, to which he cuts the top-cap off, scrapes out and discards the seeds, before filling the melon with lightly salted water and steaming. As an entire melon would be far too much, I sliced the melon in half, and sprinkling some salt on the cut surface, I steamed the melon-half with rind on for about half an hour, or until the flesh is soft and tender.
- Discarding the salted water, the soft flesh is scraped out and you will see the strands breaking apart. Set aside.
- I substituted nameko mushrooms (a tad difficult to locate at our local markets) with brown hon shimeji mushrooms (or beech mushrooms) instead, which I lightly blanched in boiling water.
- The mushrooms are mixed in with the melon strands. Dressing for this dish comprised a little bit of sesame oil, light soy sauce, white vinegar and chinese huatiao jiu (cooking wine).
As the melon strands absorb well the flavors of any stock in which they are simmered, I am thinking that the next natural progression for this dish is to add the melon strands to a more flavorful broth (chicken or abalone), let the whole dish stand for a short while to allow the flavors to be absorbed by the melon strands and maybe, just before serving, steamed for a bit to warm the dish up. No prizes for guessing what will be in my grocery shopping cart this weekend!