Saturday, May 13, 2006

Winter melon and spring lychees

To my visiting Grandmother's great dismay, we were unable to book the ratty but delicious seafood restaurant under the bridge for dinner. It doesn't surprise me, the whole place including staff can't fit more than about 70 people!

"Not to worry" my aunt said, "Let's go to the chicken place!"

So after a short wait of about 20 minutes together with what looked like about 15 other families jostling each other for seats, we were led to our table.

I immediately demanded the "Dong Gwa Jong" or Winter Melon Soup. "Dong Gwa" is the winter Melon but "jong" usually referres to one of the traditionally lidded soup bowls which is usually placed whole and steamed to make the soup. It is thought that in this way, all of the health properties of the soup ingredients wouldn't be steamed away. For this particular soup, it is traditionally made with a whole Winter Melon hollowed partially, then the soup incredients put in and the whole Melon steamed until the soup is done and the flesh is tender. The health properties of this soup is that it is low in fat and is supposed to even help with digestion and ridding your body of toxins. It is a bit troublesome to make and not often seen on menus unless you have a banquet in which this is pre-ordered.

The Dong Gwa Jong came to the table, decorated on the outside with fresh lotus flower seeds, bits of browned garlic and chicken meat. The soup inside is flavored with mature lotus seeds, pork, winter melon, chinese mushrooms, dried scallops and other things I probably don't know about. The soup is light, without any floating oil but to the chagrin of my elders, it was lukewarm and sent back to the kitchen to be steamed some more.

It was, to me, delicious. To my family, forgettable. But then again, they are Taiwanese and I am half Hong Kong-nese and thereby pre-destined to love soup.

However, unbeknownst to myself until it was served, I had unknowingly ordered one of the few things my gran, whom I haven't seen in 2+ years, won't eat...winter melon. The poor old dear had a few spoonfuls so I wouldn't feel bad.


To make up for the blunder, I had triumped quite by chance on my way home to green lychees! I wouldn't have noticed them had the fruit seller not been so charming at complimenting me on my way past. I am rarely compliemented by strangers so turned around to see who exactly he was complimenting when he stood there smiling at me offering a green lychee to try. I admit, I was flattered and curious as I hadn't seen these before and suspected that a) it was too early in the season and b) they were not sweet.

However, happily I was wrong. This new (at least to me) breed of lychees had both sweet lucious flesh as well as a small pit. Well, I really couldn't go wrong and bought two pounds home to the delight of my family.

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