Learn how to cook this easy, healthy, and delicious traditional Chinese winter melon soup (冬瓜汤) with pork ribs, red dates/jujube, and goji berries.
Winter melon (Chinese: 冬瓜) is widely consumed throughout Asia in savory dishes and sweets. The Chinese believes that winter melon helps reduce heat, and is good to be consumed in hot summer weather and/or after eating too many fried food.
One of the most straightforward way to enjoy winter melon is by making the ever popular winter melon soup. I use pork ribs for this, but if you prefer, you can also use chicken instead.
A little introduction on winter melon (冬瓜)
Winter melon has a naturally waxy green skin with white melon like meat. If you have never seen a winter melon before, the first thing you will notice is that they are huge! You can buy a whole melon if you wish, but it will be unwieldy and super heavy.
Almost all stores will cut them up into smaller pieces, somewhere between a quarter of melon to half a melon pieces. Personally, I am quite thankful they do this. These melons can be really big and heavy that most of the time, even a quarter of winter melon can weigh around 2 kilogram (~ 4.5 lb)!
Aside from soup, Chinese usually use this melon to make winter melon tea, and winter melon candies. The candies can be eaten as is, or to be used as filling in Chinese pastries, such as the old-fashioned 老婆饼/lao po bing/wife’s cake.
Chinese dried ingredients to prepare winter melon soup
Red dates/jujube and goji berries have both gone quite mainstream as they are now known as super food. These two should be very easy to find, and if you have access to Chinese markets, most stores should stock these two items. Otherwise, you can always try Amazon.
Both red dates and goji berries are full of nutrients and are considered super food. So I love adding them into my dishes whenever appropriate.😉
As for the dried squid/cuttlefish, you should be able to find these in the refrigerated section of your Asian market, but if your store doesn’t have them, it is okay to skip this harder to find ingredient.
Prep works for preparing Chinese winter melon soup
Before dumping all the ingredients into a soup pot and let your stove simmers away the soup, we need to complete the following prep works.
First, remove the rind and seeds from the winter melon, and cut the meat into chunks. I prefer to cut my winter melon into 2-inch chunks.
Second, boil a pot of water to blanch the pork ribs. Some consider this step optional, but if you want your soup to be clear with no floating scums, you don’t want to skip this step.
Third, soak the dry ingredients in cold water.
And finally, if you do use dry squid/cuttlefish, you can optionally cut this into tiny strips.
Cooking Chinese winter melon soup
Now we can start cooking our winter melon soup.
In a pot, boil together blanched pork ribs, water, winter melon, squid/cuttlefish (if using), and red dates. Reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the pork is tender and the winter melon becomes translucent, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Add goji berries and salt, adjust the amount of salt to suit your taste. Bring back to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat.
Our Chinese winter melon soup is done! It is best to serve the soup hot. I hope you will enjoy this soup as much as I do. 😋
Winter Melon Soup
- 500 gram pork ribs, blanched to remove impurities
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 - 1/2 (~ 2 kilogram, or 4.5 lb.) winter melon (Chinese: dong gua), remove rind and seeds, cut into 2 inch wedges
- 1 dried squid/cuttlefish (optional), soaked in cold water
- 8-12 (~ 20 gram) jujube/red dates, soaked in cold water
- 1 tablespoon goji berries, soaked in cold water
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- In a pot, boil together blanched pork ribs, water, winter melon, squid/cuttlefish (if using), and red dates. Reduce heat, cover the pot, and simmer until the pork is tender and the winter melon becomes translucent, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Add goji berries and salt, adjust the amount of salt to suit your taste. Bring back to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat. Serve hot or warm.