Happy Halloween! Today I’m bringing you a special autumn soup featuring a seasonal ingredient: Tougan. Tougan is also known as winter melon and is in the cucumber family. It’s a popular ingredient in Chinese soups and we often have it in our School Lunches.
Since I was in the States for two weeks this month, I wasn’t able to order any pumpkins, so I decided to celebrate my Halloween with a Tougan-O’lantern. But why waste? I’ve never made Tougan Soup before, but after 4 years of eating soup, I decided to wing a recipe from scratch and see what happened. Here’s a hint: It turned out really well!
- 10 cups water
- 1/2 tougan (winter melon)
- 1 onion
- 2 Japanese leeks (negi) sliced
- 2 burdock roots (gobo) sliced
- 1 carrot
- 1 pack of mushrooms (enoki)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 packet hon dashi
- 1 chicken boullion cube (optional)
Prepare your vegetables. As in the video, burdock root needs to be peeled, washed and then sliced. Since it is high in starch, it may start to turn brown quickly after cutting. Slice at an angle for larger, easier to pick-up pieces. Cut the leeks in a similar manner.
Tougan has a small hollow center with seeds similar to those found in cucumbers. My video shows a non-standard preparation method since I’m making a Tougan-O’Lantern. For normal preparation, you can simply cut it in half to remove the seeds, then remove the skin with peeler or knife. Cut the melon into thin, even pieces so they cook at the same time. To make it easier, cut the melon into strips about two inches wide before slicing about 1/2 a centimeter thick.
Start your water boiling and add spices. Once the water is boiling, add burdock and carrots and reduce heat to medium. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Add tougan. Continue occasionally stirring as the vegetables cook for another 3 minutes. Add mushrooms (you need to cut off the bottoms and discard them first). Stir for a bit, add onions. Once the tougan begins to appear translucent, add the leeks. Reduce heat to simmer. Once the tougan turns translucent serve and enjoy.
If you find yourself without a pumpkin and want to try your hand at Tougan-O’Lantering, there are a few things you should know. There is a lot more water in tougan than pumpkins. This makes them easier to carve, but you’ll also get water running off. It also means they probably won’t hold out overly long in the heat. To doubly ensure I had something to put outside, I stuck mine in the freezer and plan to put it out after work. Apparently they freeze well.
If you want to avoid nasty surprises, remind yourself it’s in there before you open the freezer looking for food. Otherwise, BAM! Tougan-O’Lantern.