Friday, December 30, 2005

Steamed Strands of Wonder

Before you read further on, take a look at the photo below and try to guess what the translucent strands are.
Sharkfin Melon Salad with mushrooms
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).
Garnished with some chopped chinese parsley, this dish of steamed shark's fin melon strands and mushrooms is truly healthy eating, concentrating on the texture of the melon strands and the light dressing.
Sharkfin Melon Salad
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!


Blogger Fran said...

Looks very good. Sounds much like what I call spaghetti squash. It is a large yellow squash and when cooked it can be substituted for pasta or prepared anyway you like.

12/30/2005 02:15:00 AM  
Blogger pinknest said...

Hi. Your photos are amazing! And all the food looks great. I love the blog!

12/30/2005 03:29:00 AM  
Anonymous dimsumdolly said...

My mum uses this melon to boil delicious Cantonese soups and i love eating the melon!

12/30/2005 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

never try using this melon for salad. i should try. only used them for soup.

great stuff

12/30/2005 11:12:00 AM  
Anonymous umami said...

I didn't like it much when I made soup with it, but this cold dish recipe looks really intriguing. Will try.

12/30/2005 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi fran, I've never tried spaghetti squash before but have seen them in pictures. Will be keen to try them if I could only find them in our local supermarkets.

hi pinknest, nice of you to visit - I just dropped in at your blog, interesting blog too.

hi dsd, foodcrazee and umami - I always thought that shark's fin melon was only used for brewed soups, and was really intrigued by its use in this salad-like dish, do try if you want something different !

12/30/2005 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jean said...

Bon appetit !
Bonne année 2006

1/01/2006 02:10:00 AM  
Blogger slurp! said...

that looks delicous good, it's gonna be fansatic with more flavorful broth
Happy New Year 2006 to you & your family!!!

1/01/2006 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

welcome jean, bonne annee 2006 to you and your family as well :)

hi slurp, you're back from vacation! Hope you had a relaxing one and ready to tackle the new year! Warm wishes for the new year :)

1/01/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger boo_licious said...

Happy New Year Cath and family. The melon looks good and I will be hooked since it has mushrooms.

1/01/2006 06:06:00 PM  

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