Chinese Barley and Winter Melon Soup

Howdy friends! And sorry for the brief disappearance– Peter and I spent an amazing week in California that I will be sharing with y’all soon then we spent the following week packing and preparing to move to our new apartment.

After a crazy weekend, we are mostly all moved in and now doing all our unpacking, decorating, and designing.

You may remember me mentioning that our old apartment had a tiny closed off kitchen. Our new kitchen space is a bit bigger but is nice and bright and opens up to the rest of the apartment. It makes cooking and photographing so much easier. I am loving it already!

But the stress of the move and jet lag from traveling back from the US left Peter and I both with slight colds. To keep ourselves from actually getting sick we needed a boost.

Bring in the Chinese barley and winter melon soup

Winter melon (also known as ash gourd) is a large fruit (or vegetable?) that earns its name because it can stay fresh in cold climates for months without refrigeration. However contrary to its name, winter melon is actually perfect for the summer.

Never cooked with winter melon before? You’ll usually find it pre-sliced since the entire fruit can be the size of a watermelon. A slice of winter melon basically looks like a giant cucumber.

winter melon

We discussed yin and yang in Chinese medicine before, but essentially keeping the balance of cold and hot (yin and yang) in your body is essential. Winter melon promotes yin and is considered very cooling– ideal for the hot summer weather. It is very detoxifying and great for our lungs and digestive systems.

Winter melon has a very neutral flavor so for our soup I added carrots, beef, and a chewy, nutty barley (which all contain yang!).

chinese barley and winter melon soup

Barley is a delicious grain that unbeknownst to me happens to be one of Peter’s favorites. Hulled barley is the most nutritional of the different types and is packed with fiber, but it also takes longer to cook. Pearl barley cooks much more quickly but some of the nutritional value is lost in the “pearling” process.

chinese barley and winter melon soup chinese barley and winter melon soup

I used pearl barley in this recipe which was perfect for a quick(er) meal, but you could use hulled barley as well– just add on an extra 20-30 minutes of simmering time.

You could easily make this recipe using chicken instead of beef or even substituting in a vegetable broth.

Chinese Barley and Winter Melon Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

4-5 large servings

Chinese Barley and Winter Melon Soup


  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 lb beef, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium sized carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups winter melon, skin and seeds removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1.5-2 cups pearl barley
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Add ingredients to a large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Stir well
  3. Bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 1 hour (until barley is tender)
  5. Additional salt and pepper to taste
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