Directional Melons

No this post is not about a boob job gone awry.

In Chinese there are three melons which have directional names. East melon a.k.a dong gua or winter melon is a simply enormous white fleshed thick green skinned melon that is often used in medicine and in soup making. West melon or xi gua is watermelon and nan gua, south melon is the pumpkin. There somehow is no north melon, perhaps in northerly climes the growing season is not long enough to produce a melon of any kind, perhaps I’ve simply not heard of it yet. Coincidentally the Chinese phrase meaning “stuff” is dong xi, literally translated as “east west” and I suppose that it can be interpreted as – everything in existence is the difference between two opposite directions. The extremely simple recipe that I came up with finds a meeting place between east and west, that is east melon and west melon.

winter melon

Summertime often finds us with plenty of watermelon hanging about in the fridge. I’ve had so much fun with this melon in the past, straining it’s juice and mixing with limes (and occasionally vodka) to make a most refreshing beverage, I’ve made watermelon and heirloom tomato gazpacho which is simply delicious. This year I’ve extended my admiration for this prodigious melon to its skin. As a kid we used to go on boat trips in the summer and after a full day of goofing around in sun and salty sea we would use watermelon peel as a rub for sun exposed skin, a quick and juicy cool off. I can feel it now the balmy meeting of cool watermelon with heat kissed skin. As nostalgic as I might get about cold fruit meeting hot skin I had not until today thought of cooking this particular fruit.

Winter melon is prized because when one braises it in soup it softens to translucency and becomes inundated with tasty broth. I thought why not do the same thing with the watermelon skin.

  • Starting with a simple mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) gently sweat the vegetables until they are fragrant then add a chicken broth. Mine was made from the bones of a store bought roast chicken. My watermelon skin had most of its red and green removed (sometimes however little flashes of color are nice) and I chopped it into bite sized pieces.
  • Add your watermelon skin and simmer until the skins are soft and their white color becomes transparent. This chicken soup is finished with a couple scoops of cooked quinoa or whatever your favorite soup grain might be. The watermelon skin lends a quiet sweetness to this simple dish which I accented by garnishing with a handful of course chopped fresh mint and parsley from the garden. I made something akin to east melon out of west melon, the rind pieces were a truly delightful explosion of broth and there was something almost meaty, hearty and satisfying in the interesting textural juxtapositions: liquid and solid; hot and cooling; slippery and chewable, east meets west.

I hope you enjoy it… I found it to be captivating “stuff”.