Winter Melon Recipe Stir Fry

Zingy Winter Melon Stir Fry Recipe

Winter melon stir fry is an easy, hearty comfort dish that is often found on the side of bigger meals. This quick and easy winter melon stir fry utilizes Chinese dried shrimp for extra umami flavor.

It’s a side dish that adds texture, flavor, and nutrition to your meal – and is also gluten-free!

Winter melon, or Dong Gua, is a type of gourd that has a distinctive texture that sets it apart from other squashes and melons. It’s also huge, often much bigger than your average watermelon. It has tough skin, very thick white flesh, and large seeds.

Once cooked, the flesh becomes tender and has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. The texture of the cooked melon resembles both a summer squash and daikon radish. 

Its mild taste makes winter melon perfect for soup, stew, and stir fry because it will taste like whatever you season it with. 

How to prep and cut winter melon

Most winter melons you can buy are pre-cut and wrapped in individual packaging. This is because the melon is so big that one person will not be able to eat the whole melon!

If you do get your hands on a whole winter melon, you’ll need to cut it crosswise into thick wheels. This makes it easier to peel and deseed.  

You’ll most likely find winter melon cut into a wheel or a half-wheel shape. However, they are sometimes cut into wedges. 

Either way, you will need to remove the seeds and the soft tissue surrounding them. Then, you will need to peel off the skin using a knife. You will need to peel off a ¼-inch (or ½ cm) of the skin.

The flesh attached to the skin is incredibly tough so you will be unable to use a peeler for this. The skin is also very hard to cook through.

Once deseeded and peeled, you can chop the melon flesh into whatever shape you like. For this recipe, I’ll be cutting the melon into thick batons for stir-frying. However, thick slices of winter melon tend to work for soup and braised dishes. 

How to use dried shrimp for umami

Winter melon and papery shrimp are the undisputed stars of this dish. 

Papery shrimp is a type of dried shrimp that is often used in Chinese cooking to add a seafood umami flavor and saltiness. They are very small dried shrimp with soft shells.

Unlike the bigger, meatier dried shrimp, you don’t need to pre-soak the papery shrimp before cooking. 

Papery shrimp is used in a similar way to aromatics. To release the fragrance and get them crispy, you’ll need to fry them with a bit of oil and then add the other ingredients. 

Papery shrimp adds an intense seafood flavor and saltiness to the winter melon, making it extra rich and delicious with rice. 

You can buy papery shrimp online, but this tends to be more expensive than buying them from Asian markets. 

You can also make this dish with regular dried shrimp. If you can only get your hands on regular dried shrimp, pre-soak them for a few hours (or overnight) until they become tender.


Winter melon stir fry only requires a few ingredients and is easy to prepare. 

In this recipe, you’ll find carrots and a mild green pepper to add both color and more interesting textures. But if you want the winter melon to be the star vegetable of this dish, then you can skip these ingredients.

Servings: 4

  • ½ carrot cut into 2×12 inch (6x1cm) batons (about 4oz). The carrots add color to the dish. However, the recipe still works if you skip all the other vegetables and just use winter melon.
  • 1.5 lbs (680g) of winter melon, peeled and cut into 2×1/2 (6x1cm) batons.
  • 1 tbsp of peanut oil
  • 2 tbsp of papery shrimp. This adds a strong flavor to the dish, but if you don’t want too much of a seafood taste, you can reduce the shrimp to one tablespoon and add half a tablespoon more of mushroom powder.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • 1 long green pepper, sliced (this is an optional addition). Mild green pepper adds a little spiciness to the dish, as well as a crisp texture. For a milder dish or to simplify the recipe, then you can skip this ingredient. 
  • ½ tsp mushroom powder (or chicken powder)
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • ¼ tsp of salt (or to taste)
  • Slurry: ½ tsp of cornstarch 
  • 1 tsp of water
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 15 minutes


  1. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Stir well until it is mixed and set aside.
  2. Prepare a large skillet and add about 3 inches (or 8cm) of water. Bring to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Add carrots and boil for another minute. Add the winter melon and boil for another 1 to 2 minutes until it is slightly softened but not completely translucent. Drain the cooked vegetables and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Drain again and set aside in a big bowl. 
  3. Return the pan to the stove and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Add the oil and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the papery shrimp. Stir and cook until the shrimp turns golden, this should be after 1 minute or so.
  4. Add the garlic and stir until the fragrance is released.
  5. Add the pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  6. Add the blanched carrot and winter melon, mushroom powder, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir and cook until the seasonings are evenly distributed and the winter melon becomes tender but is not falling apart. This should take 1-2 minutes.
  7. Stir the slurry ingredients again to fully dissolve the cornstarch and pour it over the vegetables. Stir gently until the sauce slightly thickens after a minute or so. Taste the winter melon and add more salt if needed. 
  8. Serve hot as a side dish

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