Winter Melon Meatball Soup (冬瓜丸子汤 Dong Gua Wan Zi Tang)
January 2, 2021
This winter melon meatball soup recipe takes only 30 minutes to make. The soup gets its flavor from the meatballs, which are light, juicy, savory, and full of umami. The winter melon balances the meatiness of the meatballs, adding a refreshing taste.
Winter melon meatball soup reminds me of my childhood. My grandparents would make this soup quite often throughout the year.
Despite its name, winter melon actually grows in the summer time. But when stored whole, it can be stored all the way through winter. So how does winter melon get its name? When close to mature, winter melon’s surface has a white powder appearance, making it look like winter’s snow or frost.
Winter melon flesh has a mild to sweet taste. It absorbs flavor really well and it’s soft to the bite when cooked. The flesh contains mostly water and it’s said to be a diuretic. Just don’t overcooked it, otherwise it becomes mushy and easily breaks apart. Winter melon is usually sold in pre-cut wedges and wrapped in plastic food wrap in Asian supermarkets thanks to its large size (a whole winter melon commonly weights between 10-30 lbs).
If you are not a meatball fan but still want to enjoy winter melon soup, you can add winter melon to pork bone stock towards the very end to make pork bone winter melon soup (冬瓜排骨汤). It is equally delicious and refreshing.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
- 1 lb (~450 g) of winter melon1
- 1 lb of ground pork (preferably 30% fat)2
- 1 small ginger chunk (~1 in or 2.5 cm long)
- 1-2 green onions
- 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3-5 sprigs of fresh cilantro
- In a large sauce pan, heat a pot of water (~8 cups or 2 quarts) under medium-high heat. While waiting for water to boil, prepare the ingredients for the meatballs.
- Peel and mince the ginger. Mince the green onions as well.
- In a medium bowl, add the ground pork, the minced ginger, minced green onions, 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 1.5 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of corn starch, mixing everything until well combined.
- When the water boils, remove the lid and set the heat to low. Scoop out ~1 tablespoon of meat mixture with a spoon and use your hands to help shape the mix into a ball. Then add the meatball to the pot of water. Use a wooden spatula to gently swirl the water with the meatball(s) to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. Repeat the same procedure until all of the meat mixture is used. Once done, raise the heat to medium-high again. The pot should remain uncovered.
- Wait for the water to boil again. Meanwhile, cut off the winter melon’s hard skin and slice the white winter melon meat into quarter-inch (~0.6 cm) thick wedges. Discard the cilantro stems and cut the leaves into small sections. Set the cilantro aside until the very end.
- When the water boils again, add the winter melon wedges. Wait for the water to boil again. Then lower the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and add the cilantro leaves, gently swirling for a bit. Ladle equal amount of meatballs, winter melon wedges, and liquid into each bowl. Serve the soup while it’s hot.
- You can find pre-cut winter melon (in plastic food wrap) sold in most Asian grocery stores.
- If using store-bought ground pork, use a whisk or fork to press on the ground pork a few more times to further grind the pork before mixing other ingredients. If using a meat grinder at home, use a small hole size grind plate to produce a fine grind. The finer grind produces a better meatball texture.