Fuzzy melon soup with pork ribs is one of the most nostalgic, and classic Cantonese soups that I grew up eating almost every week. It's packed with nutrition, delicious, and simple to make -- all you need is one hour!
What is fuzzy melon?
Fuzzy melon is a gourd, which is in the same family as pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and melons. It gets its name from its characteristic hairy fuzz!
In Cantonese, I grew up calling this fuzzy melon 節瓜 (zit gua or jeet gua), but many also refer to it as 毛瓜 (mo gua).
Some also call this winter melon 冬瓜 (dong gua)! I learned recently that fuzzy melon is the younger, immature version of winter melon, and that as it matures, it loses its fuzz and develops a waxy and sometimes ashy outer coating instead. I can't confirm if this is the case for all varieties (since there are many -- some winter melon are more oblong in shape and others round), but learned this from people who've grown winter melon (including my parents)!
How do you pick a good fuzzy melon?
Chinese parents always have the best tips for picking produce at the grocery store, because they've had years of experience doing so! For fresh fuzzy melons, my mom taught me to look for ones that are vibrant green, with the leaves still attached at the bottom end, and with the hairs still standing up. And of course, the less bruised and blemished, the better!
What is the difference between fuzzy melon soup and winter melon soup?
Since fuzzy melon is just the younger version of winter melon, they're sometimes used interchangeably. However, when my family makes soup, they use slightly different ingredients depending on which is being used.
When my family makes fuzzy melon soup, we use pork bones (ribs), dried scallops and/or dried shrimp, and ginger as the main ingredients. Fuzzy melon is more of a neutral food (not too cooling or heating).
As a mature winter melon, it develops a thicker, inedible skin, and has a waxy and sometimes ashy outer coating. I also find the flesh to absorb much more liquid during cooking (whereas fuzzy melon will stay a bit more firm) and it can get mushy. Because of this, my parents like to leave the skin on during cooking.
Winter melon is known to be more cooling compared to fuzzy melon, which is great for when you've eaten a lot of foods that are yeet hay (often fried or acidic foods that can lead to sore throat, canker sores, acne, etc.)! In addition to pork ribs and dried scallops, my family adds Chinese herbs and adzuki beans for additional health benefits to their winter melon soup.
What ingredients do you need to make fuzzy melon soup?
- fuzzy melon, aka hairy gourd, jeet gua, mo gua
- pork spare ribs, or other pork bones with meat: Pork spare ribs work great because they get super tender after boiling in this soup! Pork neck bones can also work, but the meat won't be as tender.
- dried scallops and/or dried shrimp: You can use one or the other, or both, which is what I like to do. Dried scallops are a must for the subtle sweetness they add to the soup!
- ginger: Often paired with pork to balance some of the gamey smells and flavors
- seasoning: Salt, chicken bouillon powder, and white pepper
- toasted sesame oil: Optional, but I love adding just a bit at the end to enhance the aroma and flavor of the soup
Check out these other delicious Cantonese homestyle dishes:
- the silkiest Chinese Steamed Eggs, and even one with clams!
- Cantonese Steamed Pork Patty with Preserved Vegetables
- Steamed Pork Ribs with Kabocha Squash
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Fuzzy Melon Soup with Pork Ribs
- 1 lb fuzzy melon (aka hairy gourd, jeet gua, mo gua)
- ½ lb pork spare ribs (or other pork bones with meat)
- 5-6 cups water or good quality chicken broth
- 1 oz dried scallop and/or dried shrimp (about a small handful total)
- 1 knob ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder (skip if using chicken broth)
- ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
Prepare the ingredients
- In a bowl, rehydrate the dried scallops and dried shrimp in 2 cups of warm or hot water. Cover and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.1 oz dried scallop and/or dried shrimp
- Bring a pot of water (at least 6 cups) to boil.
- While you wait, prepare the fuzzy melon by slicing off the ends and peeling the skin. Rinse the melon (it’ll likely be slimy) and dry it. Slice into wedges that are about 2-3 inches long and ½ inch thick (see video for reference).1 lb fuzzy melon
- Peel and julienne the ginger into thin matchsticks.1 knob ginger
- To prepare the pork, slice between each rib to get individual pieces.½ lb pork spare ribs
Parboil the pork
- Add the pork ribs to the pot of boiling water, and let it continue boiling for about 5 minutes, or until all the brown gunk from the meat and bones floats to the surface.
- Pour the pork and water through a colander or sieve in the sink. Give the ribs and pot a good rinse to remove any remaining gunk.
Make the soup
- In the large clean pot, bring another 5-6 cups of water to boil.5-6 cups water or good quality chicken broth
- By now, the dried scallops and shrimp should’ve rehydrated. With your fingers, break apart the scallop into smaller pieces. To the pot, add the scallop, shrimp, the water they were soaking in, and the ginger.
- Once it’s all boiling, add the parboiled pork ribs. Adjust to medium heat, cover, and let boil for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add the sliced fuzzy melon and let it boil, covered, for another 8-10 minutes or until the melon turns translucent.
- Finish by adding salt, chicken bouillon powder, white pepper, and sesame oil (optional). Taste and adjust your seasoning if necessary. Enjoy!1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder, ⅛ teaspoon white pepper, ¼ teaspoon sesame oil