Melon Soup | Milkbottle

Melon Soup

From the rich broth to the velvety cubes of winter melon,  a gourd commonly used in Chinese cuisine for the wonderfully soft texture it takes on during cooking, this wholesome soup is immensely satisfying. Although the winter melon’s delicate white flesh has no distinct taste of its own, it absorbs the broth’s flavor. We recommend buying a good-quality organic free-range chicken to get the best results. Since Chinese ham is not available everywhere in the world, you can substitute with cured hams, such as prosciutto.

For the broth
1 (3- to 3 1/2-lb) whole chicken
1 bunch scallions, halved crosswise
2 oz Smithfield or other cured ham (1 piece or sliced), trimmed of any spice coating
1 (1-inch) piece pound peeled fresh ginger, smashed
14 cups water
1 tablespoon salt

For the soup
5 (1-inch-wide) large dried scallops
1 (2-lb) wedge winter melon
2 oz Smithfield or other cured ham (1 piece or sliced), trimmed of any spice coating and cut into very thin matchsticks (1/2 cup)
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks (2 tablespoons)
3 scallions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup
How to make the broth:
Rinse chicken inside and out, then stuff cavity with scallions, ham, and ginger.
Bring water with chicken and salt to a boil in a deep 7- to 8-quart stockpot or pasta pot, then reduce heat and cook at a bare simmer, uncovered, skimming off froth occasionally, 3 hours.
Remove and discard chicken, then pour broth through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
Skim off fat. (You will have about 10 to 12 cups broth and need only 9 cups for this soup; reserve remainder for the Black-Bean Shrimp with Chinese Broccoli or for another use.)
Ho to make the soup:
Bring 2 cups broth to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, then add dried scallops and remove from heat.
Soak, covered, 15 minutes.
Return scallop mixture to low heat and simmer, uncovered, until scallops are soft and pale, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool in cooking liquid. Transfer scallops with a slotted spoon to a bowl, reserving cooking liquid.
Shred scallops into "threads" with a fork or your fingers, discarding tough ligament from side of each scallop if attached.
Bring remaining 7 cups broth to a simmer in cleaned 7- to 8-quart pot with scallops and reserved cooking liquid.
Cut off and discard rind from winter melon.
Remove and discard seeds, then cut melon into 1/3-inch cubes (about 5 cups).
Add to broth and gently simmer, uncovered, until melon is transparent, 20 to 30 minutes.
Stir in ham, ginger, scallions, and salt to taste just before serving.
Cook's notes:
The broth can be made 5 days ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove any solidified fat before using.
Soup, without final addition of ham, ginger, and scallions, can be made 3 days ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered.

Image: Mikkel Vang via Taverne Agency.  Recipe by Lilian Chou

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