Canh Bi Dao – Winter Melon Soup

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Canh Bi 1

There have been some warmer days recently that are giving us a glimpse of the summer heat to come, but before the heat hits us, there are some cool weather vegetables that deserve our attention before they’re gone.  One interesting vegetable at the Chinese/Vietnamese market that you may be overlooking is the winter melon. You may see this vegetable in the market labeled as Don Qua, and it looks a lot like a large honeydew melon with a dusting of white powder on its green skin.  Due to its large size, the markets often cut this winter melon into more manageable chunks for purchase.  Winter melon is very mild in flavor and not at all bitter.  The next time you see winter melon at the market, pick some up for this week’s Mom’s 52 recipe, an easy dish called Canh Bi Dao – Winter Melon Soup.  Hurry, before they’re gone!

Winter melon for Canh Bi Dao can look daunting, but it's easy to peel and cut into chunks like you would a honeydew melon.
Winter melon for Canh Bi Dao can look daunting, but it’s easy to peel and cut into chunks like you would a honeydew melon.

Canh Bi Dao – Winter Melon Soup

INGREDIENTS – makes 4-5 servings

For the broth:

  • 1.5 lbs. pork soup bones
  • 1.5 quarts + 1 C. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. nuoc mam (fish sauce)
  • 3 lbs. winter melon, cut into small chunks  (Optional: Mom then cuts little slices into the chunks, like an E shape, creating fronds on each chunk.  This is purely for aesthetics, but that’s how Mom does it!  See the main image at the start of this post for an example.)

For the shrimp paste:

  • 1/3 lb. ground pork
  • 1/5 lb. shrimp, mashed
  • 1 tsp. nuoc mam (fish sauce)
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 green onion, chopped



  1. Fill a large pot halfway with water.  Heat on high and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the water boils, add the pork soup bones and stir for 10 seconds.
  3. Pour the pot contents into a strainer over the sink.  Rinse the blanched bones well to wash off any scum.
  4. Clean the pot thoroughly for use in the next step.



  1. Heat 1.5 quarts + 1 cup of water in the large pot on high heat.
  2. When the water boils, add the rinsed, blanched pork soup bones.  Turn the heat down to medium.
  3. Add to the pot 1/2 tsp. salt, 1.5 tsp. sugar, and 2 Tbsp. nuoc mam (fish sauce).  Stir gently. Meanwhile, move to the next step below.



  1. Combine the ingredients for the shrimp paste and mix well.

    Shrimp paste for Canh Bi Dao.
    Shrimp paste for Canh Bi Dao.
  2. Once the Canh Bi Dao broth has cooked for 45 minutes, drop the shrimp paste into the broth by rounded tablespoons, yielding little chunks of meat in the Canh Bi Dao.
  3. Add the cut winter melon to the broth and cook an additional 15 minutes.  When the winter melon is translucent, your Canh Bi Dao is ready.  Remove the pork soup bones and discard.

Serve Canh Bi Dao with a side of jasmine rice and topped with fresh cilantro and pepper.  Enjoy!

Was this Mom’s 52 recipe helpful?  Do you have any questions about this recipe?  Did you try this recipe?  Please post your comments below.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll send your question to Mom! 

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