Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Honey White Gourd Drink (蜂蜜冬瓜茶)

White Gourd Drink 1

As I was leaving a grocery store in Ottawa’s Chinatown recently, I happened to spy this interesting beverage in a cooler by the door and couldn’t resist giving it a try…

Although the English name of the main ingredient is ‘white gourd’ the Chinese characters translate as ‘Honey Winter Melon Tea’. The word ‘melon’ suggests a very sweet, succulent fruit in English, of course, but in Chinese, the term incorporates a far wider range of produce (a cucumber is a ‘yellow melon’, for example). I have yet to cook with the winter melon (I haven’t seen them in stores this far north), but they appear quite often in a number of Chinese dishes (soups and stir-fries especially) and are very much a savory, rather than sweet ingredient.

The ingredients for this Taiwanese product appear on the can as: Water, White Gourd, Sugar, Honey, and Caramel Flavor. On tasting, it however, I got no sense that I was drinking the juice of a vegetable . Indeed, the dominant taste was a blend of honey, caramel and, for some unaccountable reason, a slight hint of the overly rich synthetic hazelnut flavor one encounters in some commercial coffee blends. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much as there was no acidity to balance out the rather thick sweetness, and it wasn’t a drink that I can imagine being all that refreshing on a hot day. I won’t bother buying it again, I don’t think, but, hey… if you don’t try these things, how will you ever know?

Anyway, on a related note, about an hour after buying this drink, I happened to come across some actual winter melon in the produce section of another store not far away. If my travel plans permitted it, I would have happily bought one or two as this was the first time I have ever seen them outside of a restaurant and I would love to give them a try in my own kitchen. Next trip to Ottawa, perhaps…




Posted in Experiments

Bitter Melon and Beef in Chili Black-Bean sauce

This is my second culinary experiment using some of the Bitter Melon slices I prepped for the Foodstuffs post some days ago. Again, I decided on a Chinese style dish since these are the Chinese variety of the melon but, this time, the Melon is cooked rather than left raw as it was in my Bitter Melon Salad experiment. I also kicked the spice level up a notch with a Chili Black Bean sauce in order to see how the bitterness of the melon stands up to the heat …  Continue reading “Bitter Melon and Beef in Chili Black-Bean sauce”

Posted in Experiments

Experiment: Bitter Melon Salad

In my recent ‘Foodstuffs’ post featuring Bitter Melon I did some tests of the three main methods for reducing the bitterness of the vegetable, all of which, readers will recall, produced only limited results. For my first experiment with the slices I had left over from those tests, I wanted to do something that was not only simple, but that left the melon still uncooked. The following basic salad is what I came up with… Continue reading “Experiment: Bitter Melon Salad”

Posted in Foodstuffs

Foodstuff: Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon will not be very familiar to most Canadians unless they happen to be of Chinese or Indian descent. I see it quite regularly in stores when I visit southern Canada but, up here in the far North, such things, when they make a rare appearance, most definitely fall under the category of the exotic. I first saw Bitter Melons in one of our two local stores about four months ago and I expected, as with many exotics, that it would make a brief appearance, never to be seen again. As it happens, though, they have been on the shelves four or five times now so I suppose that they must have sold relatively well. This is somewhat surprising actually, not just because we have such a small Asian community, but because Bitter Melon very much live up to their name and are *very* much an acquired taste. Continue reading “Foodstuff: Bitter Melon”