Winter melon soup is traditionally made with pork but my father would make a vegetarian version for me and it was one of my favorite dishes, whether eaten alone or alongside dinner. This recipe is my own spin on it and consists of a warm, gingery broth and melon simmered until soft and velvety. I especially enjoy winter melon soup this time of year, when I'm craving something clean after the excess of the holidays.
4 cups water
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
Handful of cilantro (leaves and stems)
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
6 white peppercorns, plus ground white pepper for garnish
1 1/2 pounds winter melon (can substitute fuzzy melon)
1/3 cup dried sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Set aside 4 of the green scallion pieces and a few cilantro leaves for garnish. (The scallion pieces should be thinly sliced before serving.)
Fill a saucepan with 4 cups of water and the remaining scallions and cilantro plus the ginger, garlic, and 6 white peppercorns. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
While the broth is simmering, peel the melon, remove the seeds and pulp, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks.
When the broth is ready, remove and discard the solids. Add the melon, mushrooms, soy sauce, and salt to the broth and simmer, partially covered, until melon is translucent and tender, about 20-30 minutes.
Taste and add more salt, if desired.
To serve, garnish with thinly sliced scallions, cilantro leaves, and ground white pepper.