The melon-de-São-Caetano is a tropical vegetable originated in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. It is known for its bitter taste and is believed to have many health benefits as well. You can find many different varieties of the vegetable, including Chinese Saint Caetano melon, which has a smooth husk, and Indian melon, which has a prickly husk. The most common method of cooking it is in braised dishes, but it is important to prepare it by cleaning and cutting it correctly. You can prepare this unusual ingredient with a wok, whether you prefer a simple stir-fry, a Thai flavor or an Indian flavor.
Simple braised São Caetano melon
- From 2 to 3 melons-of-São-Caetano;
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of peanut oil;
- 2 tablespoons (35 g) of kosher salt;
- 1 tablespoon (10 g) of sugar.
Makes four servings.
St. Caetano melon sautéed with eggs
- 1 melon-de-São-Caetano;
- 2 eggs;
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of peanut oil;
- 1 to 3 tablespoons (15 to 45 ml) of light soy sauce;
- Pinch of ground white pepper.
Makes from two to three servings.
Melon-de-São-Caetano with onion and spices
- 1 kg of melon-de-São-Caetano;
- 4 small chopped onions;
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil;
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) of fennel seeds;
- ½ teaspoon (1 g) turmeric powder;
- Salt to taste;
- 1 tablespoon (5 g) fennel seed powder;
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice;
- 1 tablespoon (10 g) of sugar.
Makes six to eight servings.
Method 1 of 4: Preparing the São Caetano melon to be cooked
Step 1. Wash the vegetable
Wash the melon under running water in the sink and use a brush to remove the dirt. Then rinse and dry with a clean towel.
Step 2. Cut the melon in half
Use a sharp knife to cut the stalk from both ends. Then cut the vegetable in half the length to divide it.
If desired, you can also use the knife to scrape the outer shell. It is edible, but shaving a little helps reduce the roughness of the vegetable
Step 3. Remove the seeds
When the melon is cut in half, use a spoon to scrape the seeds and all the white crumb that forms the fibrous pulp inside. Discard the seeds and fibrous crumb.
These parts are edible and you can cook them along with the rest of the melon. However, the texture can be a little hard and rubbery, and the crumb is usually quite bitter
Step 4. Place the two halves face down and cut the melon into thin slices
Use a knife to cut the slices to the width of the vegetable. They should be approximately 2 cm thick.
Step 5. Soak the Saint Caetano melon in cold water for several hours to reduce the bitter taste
Place the slices in a large bowl and cover them with cold water for one to three hours, changing the water every hour to remove as much of the bitter taste as possible.
Step 6. Blanch the melon to lessen the bitter taste
Another way to reduce this unpleasant taste is to blanching the vegetable before using it in a recipe. Fill half a pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the melon slices and leave for two to three minutes. Remove from pan and drain before transferring to a bowl filled with ice, leaving for two to three minutes. Drain again and use in your favorite recipe.
Method 2 of 4: Making a simple sauteed dish with St. Caetano melon
Step 1. Warm up a wok
Place the wok over high heat and preheat it for five minutes.
In the absence of the wok, use a wide skillet with slanted edges
Step 2. Add oil
Place 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of peanut oil in the hot wok. Let it heat up for a minute or two.
Replace peanut oil with vegetable oil if preferred
Step 3. Add the melon slices and saute for five seconds
When the oil is hot, add two or three sliced São Caetano melons to the wok. Let it cook for a while, stirring constantly.
Step 4. Add salt and sugar and saute for another two minutes
After a few seconds, sprinkle 2 tablespoons (35 g) of kosher salt and 1 tablespoon (10 g) of sugar over the slices. Cook for another two or three minutes, stirring continuously.
Adjust the amount of salt and sugar according to your preference
Step 5. Transfer the melon to a serving dish and serve
When finished cooking, serve the dish while it is still warm.
Method 3 of 4: Sauteing the St. Caetano melon with eggs
Step 1. Mix the eggs, soy sauce and pepper
Add two eggs, 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 to 30 ml) of light soy sauce and a pinch of ground white pepper to a bowl. Beat with a spoon until all ingredients are well combined.
Step 2. Warm up a wok
Place the pan over high heat and heat until it starts to smoke, which can take three to five minutes.
Any large skillet with slanted edges can be used in place of the wok
Step 3. Add the oil and let it heat up
When the wok is hot, add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of peanut oil and let it heat up for 10 to 15 seconds.
If you prefer, use vegetable oil instead of peanut oil
Step 4. Add the melon-de-São-Caetano and saute for a minute
When the oil is hot, add a clean, sliced melon and saute for a minute, stirring constantly.
Step 5. Add soy sauce and saute for another two minutes
Add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of light soy sauce over the vegetable. Stir the mixture well and cook until the melon starts to get very soft – another minute or two.
Stir constantly while the melon cooks
Step 6. Spread the melon into the wok and pour the eggs over
Use a wooden spoon to spread the vegetable in a single layer. Then pour the beaten egg mixture evenly over the melon. Cook for 30 seconds so the eggs have time to get a little firmer.
Step 7. Turn the mixture over and cook the other side
When the eggs are somewhat set, use a spatula to turn the mixture and cook the other side. Eggs should also be firm on this side and slightly browned, which takes one to three minutes.
Step 8. Transfer the mixture to a plate and serve
After the eggs have finished cooking, place the melon mixture on a serving dish. Devour the dish while it's still very hot.
Method 4 of 4: Preparing the melon-de-São-Caetano with onion and seasoning
Step 1. Heat the oil in a wok
Bring the pan to medium heat and add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of vegetable oil. Let it heat up for three to five minutes.
Step 2. Add the fennel seeds and cook for 30 seconds
Sprinkle 1 tsp (2 g) into the wok and saute quickly.
Step 3. Add turmeric powder
Add ½ teaspoon (1 g) turmeric powder and stir well, letting it cook for 30 seconds for flavors to blend better.
Step 4. Put the onions and salt in the wok and cook for ten to 12 minutes
Add four small chopped onions and salt to taste. Allow the mixture to cook until the onions are browned and begin to caramelize.
Stir the onions continuously while cooking
Step 5. Add the melon-de-São-Caetano
When the onions are already caramelized, add 1 kg of the clean and cut melon. It might be a good idea to add a little more salt to neutralize the vegetable's bitter taste.
Step 6. Cover and cook for at least 10 minutes
Cover the wok and let the mixture cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the melon is very soft. Stir periodically to cook evenly.
Step 7. Add powdered fennel seed, lemon juice and sugar
When the melon is cooked, add 1 tablespoon (5 g) of ground fennel seed, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon (10 g) of sugar. Stir enough so that all ingredients are well distributed and combined.
Substitute orange juice for lemon if you prefer
Step 8. Cook for another five minutes
After all the ingredients are combined, let the melon cook until all the flavors are infused well. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Step 9. Transfer to a platter and serve
When the mixture has finished cooking, place it on the plate and enjoy while it is still hot.
The dish is usually served with rice or roti bread
- When choosing the São Caetano melons at the supermarket, pick the ones that have a green skin instead of a yellow one, which have already passed the maturation point. Melons with dark green skins are more bitter than those with light green skins – remember this tip when buying.
- Look for bigger lumps on the outside of the melon too - this indicates the pulp is thicker.