How to make a Spring bitter melon Chinese herbal soup to eliminate damp-heat

Soup Name: Spring bitter melon Chinese herbal soup to eliminate damp-heat

Traditional Chinese Name: 苦瓜祛濕豬骨湯 (Kǔ guā qū shī zhū gǔ tāng). This is directly translated as “bitter melon dispel damp pork bones soup”.  As most soup names in Chinese are quite generic, this is another one that indicates the key ingredient and the key function of the soup and the rest is up to you on what to add.  This is the beauty of soup design, which I love!  There is definitely a logic behind it!  LOL.

Nature:  Cooling 

Taste: Bitter and savory (FYI, in TCM, the bitter taste is often associated with cooling by nature).

(You can read this article on the impact on your body of different food tastes!)

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Here’s my soup logic!

It’s humid outdoors and I’ve been feeling very heaty inside.  My tongue feels scratchy and I’ve got clear stuffy in my sinuses.

So melon soups are the best for spring and melons tend to cool the body, particularly winter melon or bitter melon.  So I’m going with bitter melon.  Melons are best with pork, so I selected pork bone shoulders and added 1 chicken thigh to sweeten the soup to try to mask the bitter melon (so the kids can drink it). LOL.  Complimentary vegetables to bitter melon can include corn, carrots, and beets.  These will all help sweeten the soup.

The herb pairing will be beans and job’s tears (or barley).  Beans and barley are the best with melons and for spring soups as they are diuretic. 

VERDICT:  This soup was amazing!  Using one bitter melon was perfect.  It starts out savory and slightly sweet with a gentle golden bitter finish.  It’s really something else!  What a beautiful soup!  And… the kids didn’t know what was in it.  The corn and red beets really enhance the flavor of this soup and the density of ingredients, including the bones, really makes this soup eat like a meal!  So good!  So good! 

Corn silk!

This is my special ingredient for Spring soups.  Corn silk is the silky, weak fibers of the corn that grow as part of the ears and come out of the top of the corn.

In Chinese medicine, they are used as a diuretic, helping the body dispel dampness and water and regulate sugars in the blood.  Commonly found in Chinese herbal teas and soups, this ingredient is practically free (if you’re buying corn).  Don’t throw away the corn silk!  You can dry them yourself once extracted from the corn.  If I’m using it right away, I will wrap in a paper towel to keep it dry and put into a soup bag for easier disposal at the end of soup cooking. 

 

What’s involved?

Prep time: 30 mins

Cook time: 30 mins on stove (+ time in thermal cooker)

Total time: 1 hour 15 mins

Serves: 8-10 bowls

Ingredients
  • 1.3 kg of fresh pork shoulder bones
  • 1 fresh chicken thigh
  • 1 medium-sized fresh bitter melon
  • 1 medium-sized fresh carrot
  • 2 medium-sized red beets
  • 2 fresh corn
  • preserve the corn silk
  • 3 dried large shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons of fried barley
  • 2 tablespoons of green mung beans
  • 2 tablespoons of yellow mung beans
  • 10 dried baby scallops
  • 2 dried honey dates
  • 3 L of water

You’ll also need:

Prep Instructions

  1. You can follow along in the YouTube video as well.
  2. In a separate blanching pot, add your washed pork bones and chicken thigh in cold water and set that to boil on high heat. As soon as that boils, drain the water, and set aside to cool.
  3. You can begin to boil your soup water at this point (me being efficient)
  4. Wash and half your bitter melon and scrap out the middle pulp and seeds, cut into large pieces.  I will then soak the bitter melon in slightly salted water (to help reduce the bitterness of the melon)
  5. Peel and cut your carrots and beets
  6. Remove the husk from the corn, save the corn silk to add to the soup, and half the corn
  7. Count out your Chinese herbs.
  8. Once your soup pot boils, add in all the ingredients together
  9. Boil on high for 30 minutes on the stove top
  10. Drop into your thermal soup cooker and allow that to cook for another 1-2 hours.  Taste, salt as needed, and serve!

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