Last weekend, my mother-in-law gave me this gigantic and amazingly fresh wintermelon (dong gua in Chinese, bi dao in Vietnamese) that she grew in her own backyard. So of course I made traditional wintermelon soup with it. You can find wintermelon in asian supermarkets. They have a mild, refreshing taste to them, almost like a cucumber. Did you know you can keep unopened wintermelon for months and then cook them in the winter? Hence the name wintermelon.
To make good wintermelon soup, the secret is in the stock. I simmered a few chicken bones and a tablespoon of ground pork in two quarts of water for about two hours.
In the meantime, wash 8 shitake mushrooms (I used dried since I didn't have any fresh on hand). Then, cut into the wintermelon and scoop out the seeds. Peel, wash, and cut into large chunks about a quarter of a large wintermelon. I also like tofu skin in my soup:
I usually get the sheets of tofu skin, but Ranch 99 didn't have any, so I got these rolls of tofu skin instead. Tofu skin is actually the sheets that are left over after you boil soybeans for a long time. You can get them dried or fresh. I prefer fresh, but I find that they go bad very quickly, so I always use them within a day after purchase. These are also called yuba in Japanese.
When the stock has been going for an hour and half, add in the wintermelon and the mushrooms and continue simmering. Add in the tofu skin after another 15 minutes and then flavor with about a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of black pepper. Simple and healthy.