Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce is a very elegant side dish with a mild flavour of shrimp and dashi stock. The winter melon is so soft that it is perfect for elderly people as well as for babies.
I like how the winter melon becomes semi-transparent when cooked through. It is pretty and great to have with a thickened shrimp sauce poured over the top.
Winter melon is reasonably new to me. I did not know of the existence of this vegetable until I had a baby.
Nagi doesn’t remember this because she was less than 12 months old. I was a full-time IT professional and Nagi had to be at the childcare centre near our home in Yokohama every day.
One day when I picked Nagi up, the carer told me that Nagi enjoyed the winter melon dish for lunch. I had never heard of winter melon before, so Nagi tasted it before me.
Winter melon is indeed a perfect dish for babies. The flesh becomes so soft when cooked, it almost melts in your mouth. The flavour of winter melon is very light, which is also a good characteristic of the vegetables that are suitable as baby foods.
Because of the rather bland flavour of the vegetable, winter melon can absorb the good flavours of the simmering sauce into the flesh very well. Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce is a typical Japanese winter melon recipe.
What’s in My Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce
- Deseeded skinless winter melon, cut into 4cm/1½” cubes
- Finely chopped fresh prawn/shrimps
- Dashi stock
- Light soy sauce
- Corn flour/cornstarch diluted in water
I used frozen uncooked prawns that were already peeled. You can of course use fresh prawns, which will probably give you a stronger prawn flavour.
I used light soy sauce instead of normal soy sauce to make the colour of the broth lighter. If you only have normal soy sauce, you can use that instead.
You should be aware that the yield of winter melon is only 60%. As you can see in the photo above, there is a large volume of the skin and the seed sections to be removed. You need to buy a piece of winter melon that weighs approximately 70% more than what is indicated in the recipe.
How to make Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce
Winter melon becomes very soft when cooked through, but it does take a while to get to that stage. So, you will need to pre-boil the winter melon pieces before adding the flavour to them.
- Boil winter melon pieces for about 10 minutes until almost cooked through. Drain.
- Cook the winter melon pieces in Dashi Broth, excluding corn flour/cornstarch, until tender.
- Add chopped prawns/shrimps and cook for 1 minute.
- Add corn flour/cornstarch and mix quickly to thicken the broth.
- Serve with harishōga on top.
Since you need to cook winter melon pieces for a while in the broth to let the flavour penetrate the flesh, you don’t want to pre-cook them too much. Otherwise, the winter melon pieces become too soft and almost melt down.
WINTER MELON ALTERNATIVES
Winter melon might not be available in your local vegetable shops. But don’t worry, you can substitute it with one of the following:
- Hairy melon (left photos above) – a long skinny version of winter melon. It has similar characteristics to winter melon, but the flesh is greener. The photo below is the same dish made with hairy melon.
- Watermelon rind – ensure that the red part that you normally eat is removed. When cooked, it becomes semi-transparent.
- Choko/Chayote (right photos above) – this has the least similarity to winter melon from a colour and texture perspective. It is much greener than even hairy melon and the outside flesh becomes very fragile when boiled.
Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce can be served hot or cold. It is a great side dish that can be served all year round. It is also low in calories!
Watch How To Make It
Winter Melon with Thickened Shrimp Sauce is a very elegant side dish with a mild shrimp and dashi stock. The winter melon is so soft that it is great for elderly people as well as for babies. See the video.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 350g/0.8lb winter melon skin and seeds removed (note 1)
- 60g/2.1oz fresh prawn/shrimps finely chopped (note 2)
- 200ml/6.8fl.oz dashi stock
- 1 tsp light soy sauce (note 3)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp corn flour/cornstarch diluted in 1 tbsp dashi stock above
Cut the winter melon into about 4cm/1½" cubes, score the skin side of the flesh making about 6 shallow parallel cuts.
Place the winter melon pieces in a pot. Fill the pot with water to completely submerge the winter melon pieces.
Bring it to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat until the winter melon pieces are almost cooked through (note 4). Drain.
Put the dashi stock and winter melon pieces in the pot and bring it to a boil.
Add light soy sauce and salt to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 10 minutes (note 5).
Add the chopped shrimp to the pot and mix quickly so that the prawn pieces submerge in the broth. Cook for 1 minute.
Pour the cornflour in a circular motion into the pot and mix to thicken the sauce evenly. Turn the heat off.
Transfer the winter melon pieces to a serving bowl and pour the shrimp sauce over the top. Place harishōga on top if using.
1. The yield of winter melon is not great. After removing the seeds and skin, you only get about 60% of the original weight. So, you will need approximately 600g of winter melon with seeds and skin on.
There is a generous amount of broth so you can have a bit more winter melon if you like.
If you can't find winter melon, hairy melon is the best alternative. Although it is greener and does not become as transparent as winter melon, the texture and flavour are comparable. See the section WINTER MELON ALTERNATIVES for other options with photos.
2. I used frozen uncooked peeled prawns. You can of course use fresh prawns.
3. You can substitute it with normal soy sauce, but the colour of the thickened sauce will be marginally darker.
4. When you put a bamboo skewer through the winter melon piece, you feel a little resistance, but the skewer can get through.
5. By this time, the winter melon should be very soft, and a skewer should get through with no resistance. If still hard, cook further. You may need to add a small amount of water.
6. Nutrition per serving.
serving: 207g calories: 50kcal fat: 1.1g (2%) saturated fat: 0.2g (1%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 0.3g monounsaturated fat: 0.3g cholesterol: 26mg (9%) sodium: 660mg (28%) potassium: 140mg (4%) carbohydrates: 5.6g (2%) dietary fibre: 3.6g (14%) sugar: 0g protein: 5g vitamin a: 0.9% vitamin c: 25% calcium: 2.8% iron: 3.3%