Winter Melon Soup with Pork Balls 冬瓜汤
This is currently one of my favourite home-cooked Chinese soups and unlike my other Chinese soups which typically use chicken or pork, this recipe uses ikan bilis broth as the soup base. As a result, it is relatively easier and quicker because without the meat, you can skip the step of blanching them before cooking, or simmering the soup for some time to extract the sweetness of the meat. This soup is very healthy, high in calcium (thanks to the ikan bilis) and has cooling properties as winter melon is known to remove “heatiness”. This recipe was adapted from my mum’s original winter melon soup. When she cooked this, she used plain water and later seasoned the soup with light soy sauce, but I find the soup too bland for my palate. So I thought of adding ikan bilis for a naturally flavourful and high-calcium soup base.
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This soup is quick to cook because over simmering will result in bitter ikan bilis broth or mushy melon (I prefer a light firmness to my melon), hence it should take only 15 minutes (20 minutes tops). Using disposable soup pouches to contain the ikan bilis saves time and effort – simply discard the pouches after cooking. The melon cubes and pork balls are all bite-sized, making this soup easy to consume.
- 700g piece of winter melon (the cut disc shape is easier for preparation)
- 1200 ml (1.2 litres) water
- 100g ikan bilis (anchovies) 江鱼仔 (I find the Pangkor variety excellent for making ikan bilis broth)
- 3 to 5 slices of ginger (optional, for neutralizing the “fishy” smell of the ikan bilis)
- 200g minced pork (or chicken)
- light soy sauce or salt (for seasoning; optional)
Marinade ingredients (A)
- 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp corn starch
- 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
- dash of white pepper
- Disposable soup stock pouches (see cooking note 1 if you don’t have it)
1. Marinade the pork with the ingredients in (A). Shape into individual meat ball (each about 1 tbsp size). Set aside.
2. Trim and discard the skin and inner seeds of winter melon. Cut winter melon flesh to large, bite-sized cubes.
3. Rinse ikan bilis and place them in disposable soup pouches.
4. Place ikan bilis soup pouches, water, winter melon cubes, and ginger in a soup pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
5. Squeeze out the excess broth from the soup pouches and discard. Season with light soy sauce (I added 1/2 tsp) or salt if needed.
6. When ready to serve, bring stock to a simmer again, then add pork balls, one at a time, making sure they don’t stick to one another. Cook for about 3 minutes.
1. If you don’t have soup pouches, add the ikan bilis to the pot. After simmering for 15 minutes, use a slotted ladle to remove and discard the ikan bilis. After making the soup base, continue by adding winter melon cubes and ginger. Simmer for 15 minutes and continue from step 5.
2. Do not simmer the ikan bilis and winter melon cubes for too long as over simmering will result in a bitter broth and mushy melon flesh.
3. Different types of ikan bilis have different degree of saltiness. Adjust the seasonings at the end (using light soy sauce/sea salt) to taste.
4. Instead of ikan bilis, you can experiment with other soup base such as light soy sauce or soup stock cubes.
- [Kitchen Tool] Soup Stock Pouch
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