I recently got one of my favorite phone calls. One in which my mom says “your dad feels like cooking Chinese food for dinner, can you come by?”. You never know when one of these calls is going to come but, trust me, we’re always prepared to snap into action when it does.
Once the plans are set, I know my dad will be out for a few hours shopping here and there, seeing what looks good — maybe some fresh noodles, a bit of roast duck, some long beans or a piece of tofu. We usually turn up when everything is beautifully prepped, items are perfectly diced, chopped, mixed and marinated in little bowls lined up in a neat little row on the counter top. As a kid I remember always being especially impressed with his little bowls of scallions — some sliced across; others cut into long, thin shreds, maybe some green parts roughly chopped — each shape for a specific dish. Even though he would never use the term, I have come to appreciate that my dad is a real master of the mise en place. So organized, so neat, the way I wish I had the discipline to cook.
Our latest family dinner started as they often do with some family potsticker making. My parents always wait to fold their dumplings until the last possible moment, and are happy to recruit any willing hands to help. My boys jumped right in and even my adorable little neice got into the action. “Folded first potsticker, age 1“, now that’s something to put in the memory books! (If you want to try making potstickers with your kids try our easy peasy dumpling recipe).
This meal begin with one of our family faves, a simple wintermelon soup. I love this soup for it’s minimalism, and the melting quality of the simmered wintermelon which becomes clear as it simmers in the broth. It’s a wonderful soup for little ones because the flavor is comforting and mild and the texture is soft and easy to eat.
The hardest part of making it might be tracking down the wintermelon itself. Look for it in Asian markets where you can find it whole or in wrapped pieces. It looks like a watermelon, but with white flesh, and duller green rind with a chalky residue.
Here’s what a wintermelon looks like.
My Dad’s Wintermelon Soup
Sometimes my dad keeps it simple with just broth and wintermelon and other times he adds a little diced ham or a few shreds of roast chicken. He always garnishes it with a sprinkle of thinly slices scallion.
- Prepare your wintermelon by removing the rind and scooping out seeds (like you would with a cantaloupe) and then dice what’s left into 1/2″ pieces.
- Simmer the diced wintermelon gently in chicken or vegetable stock for at least 30-45 minutes (longer is OK) so that it gets very soft. It’s important for this recipe that the stock is flavorful and delicious on it’s own so in this case, homemade stock is definitely preferred.
- A few minutes before serving, stir in extras (diced ham, shredded chicken, peas, whatever) to warm them through. Taste and correct the seasoning as necessary. Garnish the hot soup with thinly sliced scallions.