I looked around for the English translation of this commonly used vegetable in the Philippines which we call “upo” and almost identified it as winter melon. Apparently, the winter melon is “kundol” back home. This vegetable pictured above is a bottle gourd. It’s a light and delicately flavored vegetable we often use sauted with pork and shrimps or dried fish.
A Chinese friend of mine said that a winter melon is a good vegetable to “…keep you cool when you’re heaty” and I found that description to be so accurate. Just like the winter melon, which is actually a gourd and not a melon, “upo” makes a great soup in the summer or the tropics and perhaps does lower your body temperature, though I have no proof of that.
This time, I thought I’d try cooking it using a Chinese-style recipe that commonly uses winter melon. It turned out really good for something I just came up with based on what I’ve had in the past. I will have to do more research on a written recipe and then make improvements. Perhaps I could add more vegetables for aesthetics and improve the color and texture of the dish.
My soup was also milky which is a big no-no in winter melon soups. I will have to make changes in my cooking method. That same Chinese friend I mentioned showed me how particular they were with making sure the broth was clear by parboiling the meat (it was pork in that particular case) prior to cooking. The froth that came up to the top was not just thrown away, all the liquid was thrown out. So he used only a small amount of water to parboil the meat. Accoridng to him, the blood and impurities from the meat is removed in the parboiling stage leaving you with a clear broth in the final dish. Those impurities he said were not good for your health. I’ve always thought it was a waste to throw out that good stock and probably tried it only once. But yes, doing it the Chinese way does leave you with a cleaner-tasting broth that’s clear and pleasing.
For now, this is a good and easy recipe when you’re in the mood for a Chinese soup that satisfies.
Chicken and Bottle Gourd Soup
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced thin in 1-inch strips
1 small bottle gourd, peeled and sliced about 1 x 1/4 in. strips (seeded if they are more mature)
1 2-in. piece of ginger, sliced thin (more if you want the soup hotter)
6 pieces dried Chinese mushrooms. rehydrated and sliced in strips
4 c. water
about 2 tbsps. chicken bouillon
salt to taste
Put all ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook until the gourd is translucent, about 20 minutes in high altitude. Correct for seasoning.