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.