Winter Melon Fish Soup (冬瓜鱼片汤)

Winter melon soup is a dish that originates from the Guangdong region in Southern China and is commonly eaten in the summer. Traditionally, it’s made by using half of a winter melon, pulling out the seeds and pulp from the center, and replacing it with the contents of the soup. The entire melon with the soup inside is then taken to a large steamer and slow cooked to completion.

The traditional version is difficult to make for most people because few have such a large steamer or are able to procure half a winter melon that’s not already cut to chunks. Today, we want to show you our variant which, while deviates significantly from the traditional methods, uses many of the same ingredients and is equally delicious.

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb winter melon
  • 1 tilapia fillet
  • 3-4 dried scallops
  • 1 salted duck egg yolk
  • 10-12 wood ear
  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 bundle vermicelli
  • 1 stalk green onion
  • 2-3 slices ginger
  • Salt – adjust to taste
  • White pepper powder – optional, adjust to liking
  • Neutral density oil, for pan frying
  • Flour – small amount to dust the fish

Directions:

  1. Wash and soak the wood ear and dried shiitake mushrooms for at least 1 hour, preferably longer. Dried mushrooms float, so it’s possible to speed up the soaking process by using something such as a bowl or a pot lid to weigh them down under water.
  2. Wash the outside of the winter melon and use a knife to skin it. Put the dried scallops, winter melon seeds, pulp, and skin into water and simmer on low heat for an hour. The skin and seeds are not meant for eating, but they are much healthier than the meat and also provide extra flavor, so we will not waste them. If you’re in a hurry, you can skip this step and just discard the seeds, pulp, and skin.
  3. Cut the winter melon flesh into chunks, dice the green onions, slice ginger, and set them aside.
  4. Once the seeds, pulp, and skin have been boiling for an hour or so, fish them out using a strainer and discard. They’ve served their purpose in enhancing the soup, and now we don’t want them to be in the final soup.
  5. Cut the shiitake mushrooms into slices or little pieces. If their centers are not soaked all the way through, it’s not a big issue because once we cook them, they’ll soften.
  6. To the soup, put in the winter melon flesh, shiitake mushrooms, wood ear, and salted duck egg yolk. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes.
  7. While the soup continues to cook, prepare some boiling water to soften the vermicelli.
  8. Take the tilapia fillet, dust both sides with a light coat of flour, and place into a pan to sear on medium heat. While the first side is searing, add a little white pepper powder and salt to the top side. Flip the fillet once the bottom side takes on a nice golden hue, and then sear for another 2-3 minutes until fully cooked. With a spatula, break the fillet into a few pieces.
  9. Pour hot water onto the vermicelli and let it soften.
  10. Turn the heat of the soup to high and add in the fish and softened vermicelli. Add in a little salt and adjust to liking.
  11. Top off with green onions.

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