Hey everyone! Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend. Mine was awesome. I spent the past three days relaxing and cooking up a storm. Cat and I also went on a few fun adventures, but I'll write about those later.
I was browsing the Irvine Farmers' Market on Saturday when I found this magnificent pear gourd specimen at the Yao Cheng farm stall. It looks like they're back in season. I had fun creating a recipe for Steamed Pear Gourd with Savory Egg Custard last year, so I decided to try my hand at something new.
In my recipe for Pear Gourd and Sparerib Soup, I've treated the pear gourd like a winter melon. The broth was made with pork spareribs and konbu (Japanese dried kelp), stewed together with the pear gourd until tender. Chinese wolfberries (dried Goji berries) and dried black fungus give the soup sweetness and added texture. Thin slices of fish and wisps of ginger are used to finish it, and help round out the flavors.
Pear Gourd and Sparerib Soup
1 Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 large pot or sauté pan with fitted lid
1 large pear gourd
1 lbs of pork spareribs cut into 1-in. lengths (Have your butcher do it.)
1 4-oz. tilapia fillet sliced into 1/4-in. pieces
1 cup of dried black fungus strips
1 tbsp of Chinese wolfberries
1 4x6-in. piece of konbu
1 small piece of ginger peeled and julienned
2 tbsp of cornstarch
Sea salt to taste
Wash the pear gourd and dice into thumb-sized chunks.
Coat each slice of fish in the cornstarch and set aside.
Place the spareribs in the pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and let cook for a minute or two until the surface fills with foam. This will pull the blood and other impurities out from inside the bone.
Drain the spareribs. It may seem like a waste, but trust me. You don't want that cloudy liquid in your soup, and there's plenty of flavor still left. Rinse the spareribs thoroughly under cold, running water. Drain and set aside. The spareribs haven't been fully cooked, only parboiled, so wash your hands before handling anything else.
Wash out the pot. Place the pear gourd pieces, spareribs, Chinese wolfberries, and dried black fungus strips in the pot. Add enough water to barely cover.
Lay the konbu and top and cover with the lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then drop the heat to medium-low.
Remove the konbu from the pot and let cool on the cutting board. Slice into 4x1/4-in. strips and tie into knots.
Add the konbu back into the pot. Cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes until both pear gourd and spareribs pieces are tender.
Try soup, then add sea salt to taste. Use a little more than you think you need, since it will need to penetrate the pear gourd. I found about 2 tsp to be just right. Then, spread the slices of fish over the surface of the soup and sprinkle the ginger shreds on top.
Cover and let simmer for roughly 3 more minutes until the fish slices are just cooked through. The soup should be served immediately.
Light and warming, my Pear Gourd and Sparerib Soup makes a great starter or entree course. I like to enjoy it with a big bowl of steamed rice.