March 29, 2023

Candied Winter Melon Tea 冬瓜糖涼茶

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶

As the season turns and the days grow warmer it's time for some "cooling teas" also known as 涼茶.  Chinese believe that the food that they eat balance and nourish the body to good health, especially with respect to the needs that seasonal changes bring to the body.  Cooling teas help to dispel the heat, or 熱氣, caused by warm weather.

This particular cooling tea caught my eye because the main ingredient is one of my favorite fruit candies, the candied winter melon 冬瓜糖.  We've actually made winter melon tea before from fresh winter melon and it was plenty delish.  So now we got to try it with candied winter melon. 

The results were most satisfying and a lot easier to make. The candied fruit provided an intense but totally light vanilla sweetness with grassy notes and a touch of smokiness to a most delightfully refreshing Candied Winter Melon Tea 冬瓜糖涼.  This fragrant herbal tea was a cinch to whip up!

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶

The star of this show is the winter melon 冬瓜.  It is a big melon with white flesh and dark green skin that is covered in a white chalky layer, thus the moniker 'winter' melon.  The flesh of the melon has both sweet and savory uses, cools the body and clears toxins.

Candied winter melon 冬瓜糖 is just exactly that, the winter melon cut to strips and cooked in heavy syrup and then dried into stick candies.  It's a favorite Chinese traditional candy and nowadays makes it's appearance most during Chinese New Year.  (See our post of CNY Tray of Togetherness.)

Preserving the winter melon in this way does amazing things to the taste and texture.  Fresh winter melon is pretty bland and the texture firm but soft.  In candied winter melon each juicy bite is transformed to a mellow vanilla and sweet grass flavor while the texture is fluffy on the inside and crunchy on the outside.  Best of all this yumminess transfers to our Candied Winter Melon Tea.

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶

A couple more ingredients to round out the tea.  Here is the first two:  Job's tears 薏米 (left) and cooked Job's tears 熟薏米 (right).  Why the two, you ask?  Well, Job's tears is cooling while cooked Job's tears are warming.  So the use of both is used to balance the coolness and warmness, making the addition of Job's tears more neutral.  If you prefer more cooling or more warming you can adjust accordingly.

Job's tears also help detoxify the body.

In terms of flavor Job's tears add a creamy oatmeal-like flavor.  The pearls expand and fluff out upon cooking, providing a nice chewy texture.  

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶

The final touch is the addition of corn silk.  Corn silk, 玉米須 or 玉米鬚, is the loose silky golden fiber found between the corn ear and the outer husk.  You can pull it fresh from the corn or you can also buy dried cornsilk but mind that when dried they turn brown in color.

Corn silk is cooling and relieves dampness.

All the ingredients for this tea can be found in shops that sell the ingredients for Chinese medicine.

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶

Other than some pre-soaking for the Job's tears there is nothing else to prepare.  Everything is thrown in the pot along with water and cooked at a gentle simmer for 2 hours.  The long simmer is necessary for the unique flavors of the candied winter melon to infuse the tea.  Cool and then let chill.

Candied Winter Melon Tea's unique taste is lightly sweet, a creamy vanilla with a hint of grass.   It's addictively refreshing and just the drink to cool down with on a warm day.  Enjoy!

Candied, Winter Melon, candy, herbal, Tea,  冬瓜糖, 涼茶, 茶
Candied Winter Melon Tea  冬瓜糖涼茶
(adapted from 四季裡的港式湯水圖鑑 by 包周)  
(makes 1 liter)  Prep time: 30 mins   Cook time: 1 hours

Ingredients:


Directions:

Rinse the cooked and uncooked Job's tears in water, then soak in fresh water for 30 mins.  Strain out soaking water.

Add Job's tears, corn silk, candied winter melon and water to large pot.  When the water boils turn the heat down to a simmer.  Let cook for about 1 hour, adding water if the water level goes too low.  The tea left after cooking should be around 4 cups.

Let cool completely.  Pour through strainer to separate liquid from solid.  Pour tea into a pitcher and chill in fridge.  The strained out job's tears and winter melon can also be saved in the fridge for a tasty, nutritious snack.  Drink up in 4 days.
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