Winter Melon Seafood Soup (冬瓜海鲜羹)

Learn how to make this unique spin on a classic Chinese comfort soup!

Prep Time
20 min
Total Time
50 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

Growing up in China, my parents didn’t have much, but what they did have was lots and lots of winter melon and a bunch of stories to go with it. 

Winter Melon was what they ate when there wasn't much else to eat. It was really cheap, abundant, and easy to grow back in China. It's also an incredibly versatile fruit (yes, it's a fruit) that can go in stir fries, stews, soups, and etc.

Through thick and thin

In Chinese cuisine, there are (at least) two words for soup: tōng 汤 and gāng 羹

  • gāng 羹 is the word for "thick" soup, or soup that's thicker in consistency. Generally, gāng 羹 is thickened with things like cornstarch, eggs or egg whites, and etc.
  • tōng 汤 is more of a general term for soup, but in comparison with gāng 羹, it's closer to the consistency of water.

Winter Melon Soup comes in both varieties of thick and thin, and the one we're covering today is of the thick variety.

Health benefits of Winter Melon Soup

Also known as ash gourd or wax gourd (Benincasa hispida), because certain varieties turn white, it's come to be called Winter Melon as a metaphor to snow.

It’s also been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. In Ayurveda, it’s believed to be a great source of prana, or life energy, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine, dūng gwā is believed to help flush the body of toxins, and to bring balance to an excess of yiht hei (热气), or internal heat.

One of the key concepts in Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Medicine is harmony between Yin and Yang, or yām yèuhng (阴阳) in Cantonese.

  • On the one hand, yin or yām 阴, represents a cooling energy, femininity, and the moon among many other things.
  • On the other hand, Yang or yèuhng 阳, represents heat, masculinity, and the sun. Winter melon is believed to help restore a balance of Yin energy.

In recent years, modern research has started to validate some of these beliefs. Winter melon is high in antioxidants, and studies show that eating it may help prevent ulcers and reduce inflammation, which is believed to be the root cause of many diseases. 

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb winter melon
  • 3 oz fish fillet (

    we used tilapia here, but any type works

    )
  • 3 oz shrimp (

    deveined

    )
  • 1 oz yellow chives
  • 4 oz imitation crab
  • 3 egg whites (

    egg white from 3 eggs

    )
  • 4 cups water
  • 7 oz chicken broth
  • Soup Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt (

    to taste

    )
  • 0.50 tsp sugar
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 0.50 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp water
  • Marinade for Fish & Shrimp
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tbsp water

How to Pick the Best Winter Melon

My parents go into great detail about this throughout our video, but here are some of the main criteria they look for.

Usually, at markets, they're already sliced up (since using and cooking an entire 10lb winter melon is a big commitment)

  • Older is better
  • The skin/shell should be white / have more white hairs
  • Pick a slice closest to the stem (it'll have thicker flesh)
  • If you can still see the core/seeds, it should be more hollow or less solid

How to Store Winter Melon

If you're buying or growing a whole winter melon, you can store it in a dark, cool place (like your garage) for months. My dad has been saving this winter melon from September to March!

If you're buying slices, you can keep them in your refrigerator for 3-7 days before you absolutely need to cook them.

Finding Asian Ingredients

Some of these ingredients are hard to find in a typical grocery store.

If you don't live near an Asian market, most or all of what my dad uses in this recipe can be found on Amazon:​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​ ​

I've also included some other Chinese kitchen essentials, used in many of my dad's other recipes.

These links are affiliate links, which means that if you use our links to purchase these ingredients, Amazon pays my family a small amount for the sale - at no extra cost to you. If you use these links, we really appreciate the support!

Assuming you were starting with a whole entire winter melon, we'd:

  • wipe the white hairs/dust off with a paper towel
  • slice the melon to the weight/quantity you'll be using
  • remove the core / seeds

With our slice of winter melon (1.5 lb), we'll:

  • peel the skin
  • wash the winter melon
  • dice it into about 1 cm cubes

We'll be dicing our fish fillets (3 oz) (we used tilapia), shrimp (3 oz) (deveined, de-shelled), crab or imitation crab (4 oz), and yellow chives (1 oz). These are all cut into about 1 cm pieces.

Yellow chives are more tender, sweet, and lighter in taste than the more commonly known green chive. If you can’t get yellow chives, green chives work fine as well.

Set the stove on high heat and start boiling water (4 cups) and chicken broth (7 oz).

We'll marinate our fish and shrimp each with cornstarch (2 tsp), water (0.50 tbsp), and white pepper (0.50 tsp) (these amounts are per bowl.)

Then, create a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch (5 tbsp) and water (4 tbsp).

We'll also separate egg whites (3). To separate the egg whites from the yolks, my dad cracks the eggs, opens them from the top, and then carefully pours the yolk into the other side of the egg shell.

Add a splash of water (about 1/2 tsp) to the bowl to help the eggs separate and "flower" in the soup more easily, and mix well.

Once the pot has come to a boil, we'll add our winter melon to the pot, stir, and cover. Let the winter melon cook for 5-7 minutes. Once it comes to a boil again, we can proceed to thicken our soup.

To thicken our soup, re-stir the cornstarch slurry to dissolve any remaining cornstarch, and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly as we pour. My dad took about 30-45 seconds to pour the cornstarch in. If we pour it in all at once, it'll turn into a clump.

Sometimes, my dad doesn't use all of the cornstarch, just until desired thickness. It's up to you :)

Then, we'll add our fish, shrimp, and crab. Stir, cover and let the seafood cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Slowly pour in the eggs over the course of 20-30 seconds, constantly stirring to help the egg flower into soft whisks and strands.

Next, we’ll add more flavor to the soup with salt. (1 tsp) My dad says you can add whatever amount you like. We’ll also add some white pepper to taste, as well as olive oil (0.50 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tsp)

Almost there! Like a true chef, my dad always tastes his dish in case he needs to adjust the flavor at all.

Then, we'll pour our soup into a bowl / bowls, and garnish with our yellow chives.

Next, call your loved ones over - time to eat!

Summary

Winter Melon Seafood Soup (冬瓜海鲜羹)
Learn how to make this unique spin on a classic Chinese comfort soup!
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 50 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 1.5 lb winter melon
  • 3 oz fish fillet (

    we used tilapia here, but any type works

    )
  • 3 oz shrimp (

    deveined

    )
  • 1 oz yellow chives
  • 4 oz imitation crab
  • 3 egg whites (

    egg white from 3 eggs

    )
  • 4 cups water
  • 7 oz chicken broth
  • Soup Seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt (

    to taste

    )
  • 0.50 tsp sugar
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 0.50 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp water
  • Marinade for Fish & Shrimp
  • 0.50 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 0.50 tbsp water
Step 1 - Prepare winter melon↑ Jump to details

Assuming you were starting with a whole entire winter melon, we'd:

  • wipe the white hairs/dust off with a paper towel
  • slice the melon to the weight/quantity you'll be using
  • remove the core / seeds

With our slice of winter melon (1.5 lb), we'll:

  • peel the skin
  • wash the winter melon
  • dice it into about 1 cm cubes
Step 2 - Chop seafood & chives↑ Jump to details

We'll be dicing our fish fillets (3 oz) (we used tilapia), shrimp (3 oz) (deveined, de-shelled), crab or imitation crab, and yellow chives (1 oz). These are all cut into about 1 cm pieces.

Yellow chives are more tender, sweet, and lighter in taste than the more commonly known green chive. If you can’t get yellow chives, green chives work fine as well.

Step 3 - Start boiling, create marinades & thickeners↑ Jump to details

Set the stove on high heat and start boiling water (4 cups) and chicken broth.

We'll marinate our fish and shrimp each with cornstarch (2 tsp), water (0.50 tbsp), and white pepper (0.50 tsp) (these amounts are per bowl.)

Then, create a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch (5 tbsp) and water (4 tbsp).

We'll also separate egg whites (3). To separate the egg whites from the yolks, my dad cracks the eggs, opens them from the top, and then carefully pours the yolk into the other side of the egg shell.

Add a splash of water (about 1/2 tsp) to the bowl to help the eggs separate and "flower" in the soup more easily, and mix well.

Step 4 - Cook the soup↑ Jump to details

Once the pot has come to a boil, we'll add our winter melon to the pot, stir, and cover. Let the winter melon cook for 5-7 minutes. Once it comes to a boil again, we can proceed to thicken our soup.

To thicken our soup, re-stir the cornstarch slurry to dissolve any remaining cornstarch, and slowly pour it into the pot, stirring constantly as we pour. My dad took about 30-45 seconds to pour the cornstarch in. If we pour it in all at once, it'll turn into a clump.

Sometimes, my dad doesn't use all of the cornstarch, just until desired thickness. It's up to you :)

Then, we'll add our fish, shrimp, and crab. Stir, cover and let the seafood cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Slowly pour in the eggs over the course of 20-30 seconds, constantly stirring to help the egg flower into soft whisks and strands.

Next, we’ll add more flavor to the soup with salt. (1 tsp) My dad says you can add whatever amount you like. We’ll also add some white pepper to taste, as well as olive oil (0.50 tsp) and sesame oil (1 tsp)

Step 5 - Taste, plate, garnish↑ Jump to details

Almost there! Like a true chef, my dad always tastes his dish in case he needs to adjust the flavor at all.

Then, we'll pour our soup into a bowl / bowls, and garnish with our yellow chives.

Next, call your loved ones over - time to eat!

Step 6 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 7 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

My sister and I have many, many happy memories enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.