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Dongpo 'Pork' (Braised Winter Melon)

Dongpo 'Pork' (Braised Winter Melon)
Laura McCandlish for NPR

I love Hangzhou's iconic dongpo pork, but it's difficult to swallow more than a morsel or two of the fatty belly. Winter melon, despite its name (white fuzz coats the mature gourd), is refreshing to eat when it's hot outside. Buy melon with thick and firm (not hollowed-out) flesh at most Asian markets. There you'll also find Zhejiang's famous Shaoxing wine (get the cheap kind for cooking) and salty light soy sauces for flavor and dark soy sauces for color. These braising liquids render the otherwise bland squash well-seasoned and succulent. This recipe also is adapted from Hangzhou TV chef Chen Leilei.

Makes 4 servings

1 pound winter melon* (at least 6 inches in diameter), rind and seeds removed

2 tablespoons canola oil

2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin slivers

1 bunch scallions, chopped, white and green parts separated

3/4 cup Shaoxing wine*

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 cup water

2 teaspoons sugar


1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved with 2 teaspoons water

White pepper

*Available at Asian markets

Cut the winter melon flesh into 2-inch chunks.

Heat the oil in a hot wok. Add ginger, all white parts of scallions and about 1 tablespoon of the chopped green stalks. Stir-fry over high heat 1 minute, until fragrant but not burned.

Add the winter melon chunks and stir-fry for 3 minutes on medium-high heat.

Pour Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce and water over melon, stirring well to combine. Mix in sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.

When liquid reaches boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover wok, and simmer about 15 minutes, until winter melon is just fork-tender.

Uncover wok, add dark soy sauce and cornstarch solution, and raise heat to high again, stir-frying about a minute, to set the sauce. Season, to taste, with salt and white pepper.

Spoon winter melon and sauce into a serving bowl, garnish with remaining chopped green onion and serve.

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