Honestly, I’ve never even heard of sharkfin's melon (鱼翅瓜) for the past 31 years in my life. Hence I was taken aback by the name of "sharfin's melon" when the affable vegetable-seller in Sunday wet market told me so. Touted and assured by the stall owner as an ingredient for soup with same simmering method as winter melon, I was intrigued to haul one back for I know it'll be something new on my culinary repertoire.
Using the same cooking technique as my other ordinary soups, the soup went over well. Upon lifting my ladle to adjust the taste after long hours of simmering, it suddenly dawned on me why the name spell so. The cooked flesh of the sharkfin's melon bears a strong resemblance with shark's fin as when it's cooked, the melon becomes pliable and crumbles into transparent threads. Also reminiscent of translucent glass noodles (a.k.a cellophane noodles or Chinese vermicelli 冬粉), the flavor of sharfin's melon as mild as its appearance suggests, which basically picks up the flavors from surrounding ingredients it's cooked with. Thus, I added some red dates, Chinese goji berries (枸杞子) and carrots to impart certain level of sweetness to the soup, in addition to the earthy flavors of the pork ribs. Besides imbuing sweetness to the soup, red dates and Chinese goji berries also have the propensity to boast such an astounding number of health benefits. You can find health benefits for TCM in my previous post on Chinese Herbal Black Chicken Soup.
If you have abundance of Chinese herbs (red dates and Chinese goji berries) in hand like I do and tired of going over and over again with the stereotype home-cooked soup, you may want to add sharkfin's melon soup into your realm of soup one day (if you haven't do so).
1/8 of shark’s fin melon, cut into large chucks
300g pork ribs, cut into chucks, rinsed
8 red dates, halved and seeds removed
2 tbsp wolfberries, rinsed
1 carrot, skin peeled and cut into large chucks
1. Parboil or blanch the pork ribs in rolling boil water in a pot. Drain and set aside.
2. Discard the rind of shark’s fin melon, cut the melon to large chunks and scoop out the seeds using a spoon.
(Tips : If you find the process of prying the seed troublesome and time-consuming, you can try to boil the sharkfin's melon in a pot of water until it starts to soften and partially pull apart, then cool it down with ice water before using a spoon to scoop out the seeds.)
3. In a stockpot, pour in 1000ml water and bring to the boil. Place the blanched pork ribs, sharkfin's melon chunks and the rest of the ingredients (except goji berries) into the pot.
4. Reduce to low flame, put on the cover and let it simmers for about 45 minutes or longer if possible. Add goji berries 10 minutes prior to turn off the flame. Add salt to taste at the last 5 minutes of simmering.
(Tips : Alternatively slow cooker or double-boiler can be used but with longer time needed.)
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