Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shark Fin Melon Soup

I made this soup today because I haven't tried this type of melon before (I mean I have not cooked it before). My mom-in-law always makes this soup whenever we are back in Kuching.

It's called Shark Fin Melon or Spaghetti Squash (Cucurbita Ficifolia) because once cooked, the melon really resembles shreds of sharksfin! I confirmed this with the lady who sells vegetables at the Lip Sin market. In Hokkien, it is called Shark Fin Melon.

I bought half a melon because I plan to make a pot of soup for 2 meals. The melon is distinguished by its smooth light green and pale green skin. Almost like a watermelon skin. (See how the whole melon looks like from this blog:

The melon needs to be peeled and cut into chunks. The part which I didn't really relish was removing the seeds! There's a lot of seeds in this melon, even a chunk has about 4-5 seeds. You can be lazy and skip this part (that's what my vege woman said) or you can be a detailed freak (like me) and pry the seeds out one by one! I did that and it wasn't so bad. Consider it meditative! I plan to germinate the seeds and see what happens though I don't have much of a garden and space is a premium in my apartment.

As with my normal soups, I am using pork bones (blanched in boiling water). Into a pot of boiling water, I add these pork bones, 2 slices of ginger and the shark fin melon (cut into fairly large chunks because smaller chunks tend to disintegrate into the soup). Boil on high heat for 10 minutes, then close the pot tightly and simmer on the lowest fire for 2 hours. Season with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Serve hot.

For vegetarians or at least for people like my husband who doesn't eat real shark fin, this melon is a good substitute!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Braised Chicken with White Radish

I know this is not a soup BUT it does taste so good and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. It has a bit of a gravy that goes well with plain rice.

White radish is a versatile root vegetable. You probably have eaten radish in its other forms in Japanese or Korean cuisine. In Korean food, you probably have eaten radish as a spicy kimchi. In Japanese cuisine, you would have been familiar with "daikon" used in Japanese stews or even as a white shredded pile of mush you usually add to the dipping sauce for tempura.

But a word of caution, if you have taken herbal soups such as ginseng a few hours before, you should NOT take anything (soup or otherwise) that is cooked with white radish. White radish detoxes the body of all the goodness that you have just eaten. I once heard that if you have food poisoning, taking white radish is good as it helps flushes out the unwanted from your body.

Anyway, white radish is a vegetable you should eat if you want a clear complexion. Perhaps that's why the Japanese and Korean girls look so radiant and pretty.

This recipe comes from Karen Mok's recipe book. While I am not a big fan of Karen Mok, this recipe is a knockout success each time I've made it. And it has become my husband's favourite dish, among the other favourite dishes like ginger chicken.

You'll need:
2 chicken thighs (remove skin if you're on a lowfat diet, otherwise keep it on; chop into bite-size chunks)
1 medium size white radish, wash, peel skin and cut into chunks
2 slices young ginger
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 sliced red chili (for garnishing)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put in the white radish. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

In a separate pan, heat oil. Saute ginger until fragrant. Add chicken and radish. Stirfry for a few seconds before adding water. Add in the fish sauce, rice wine and soya sauce. Bring to a fast boil. Then turn the heat down so that chicken simmers gently for 25 minutes or so (don't let the gravy dry up, add more hot water if you find the gravy disappearing!). Once chicken is tender, dish up and garnish with red chili. You should have a bit of gravy with this dish.

That's it. A quick dish you can make even if you think you don't have time.

Try it and tell me how it went! And of course thanks to Karen Mok for such a simple, delicious dish.

By the way, radish soup is also really good and simple. Just throw some chicken carcasses into a pot of boiling water with some chunks of radish. Add a slice of ginger and some red dates if you want. Simmer 2 hours or so and season with salt at the end of the cooking time. I prefer to add some chicken feet to this soup as I am a chicken feet lover! Radish is also good for the lungs and clearing heat.