How to Make Canh Bí Sườn (Vietnamese Winter Melon Soup)
How to make canh bí sườn or Vietnamese winter melon soup with pork spare ribs! It has a clear broth that is light yet so satisfying and comforting. This is one of my favorite Vietnamese soups!
What is Canh Bí Sườn?
Canh bí sườn is a Vietnamese winter melon soup with pork spare ribs. To break it down, canh is the Vietnamese word for soup, bí is winter melon, and sườn is pork spare ribs.
Winter melon is also known as fuzzy melon. This is because it has fuzzy hairs similar to a peach.
In the Vietnamese culture, we eat everything family-style. Canh or soup is always a necessary component to every spread.
My parents made this soup all the time growing up and it was (and still is) one of my favorites!
Canh bí sườn is a light yet satisfying and comforting soup. This soup warms the soul and always makes me so nostalgic.
It is so good with a big bowl of rice and pairs perfectly with meaty, salty, and savory dishes.
Ingredients for Winter Melon Soup
To make canh bí sườn, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Winter Melon: The main ingredient for this recipe. Despite its name, winter melon tastes more like a squash vegetable than a melon fruit. It has a mild and light flavor.
- Pork Spare Ribs: The broth for this soup is flavored using pork spare ribs. The pork bones give it a light yet rich flavor and tender rib meat.
- Chicken Bouillon: A common substitute for MSG to add more savory, salty, and umami flavor. My favorite is Knorr granulated chicken bouillon.
- Salt: An essential seasoning to add saltiness to the soup. Adjust the amount to your liking.
- Water: This soup is meant to be clear and light so water is all you need for the base.
- Green Onions: Add green onions at the end for garnish to add freshness and a mild onion flavor.
- Black Pepper: A big pinch of black pepper adds just the right about of heat and warmth to winter melon soup.
How to Make Canh Bí Sườn
Canh bí sườn is pretty easy to make and ready to eat in about 25 minutes!
Let’s walk through this winter melon soup with pork spare ribs recipe step-by-step so you can recreate this perfectly at home!
As always a recipe card is included at the end that you can print out, pin to Pinterest, or save for later.
Step 1: How to Cut Winter Melon
Begin by washing the winter melon. Cut off the ends and peel with a knife or vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin.
Next, cut the winter melon in half or into rounds.
Then cut it into 1 to 2 inch chunks around the seeds in the middle.
Discard the seeds. They have a mushy texture.
Set aside the cut winter melon while you prepare the pork spare ribs.
Step 2: Parboil Pork
Before you make the broth, parboil the pork.
In a pot on medium heat, add enough water to cover the pork spare ribs. Boil for about 10 minutes.
The pork does not need to be cooked fully at this point.
Boiling pork when making soup is important because it removes the scum and impurities. Scum is essentially protein that floats to the top. It appears brown, foamy, and not very appetizing.
Parboiling pork ultimately results in a clearer broth.
Discard the water and rinse off the pork and the pot.
Step 3: Combine Ingredients & Adjust
Return the pork spare ribs to the empty pot and place it back on the stove on medium heat.
Add water, chicken bouillon, salt, and the chunks of winter melon.
Boil and cook for about 10 minutes or until the winter melon is soft and translucent.
Taste test and adjust it to your liking.
Step 4: Garnish for Canh Bí Sườn
Once the soup is to your liking, turn off the heat.
Lastly, garnish with slices of green onion and a big pinch of black pepper to finish it off.
Serve canh bí sườn with a side of rice, your favorite Vietnamese dishes, and enjoy!
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some frequently asked questions about canh bí sườn. If you have any more questions, please leave me a comment below!
What does winter melon taste like?
Despite its name, winter melon actually tastes more like a squash vegetable than a melon fruit. Winter melon is not sweet like a honeydew.
Winter melon or trái bi in Vietnamese, has a mild and light vegetable flavor.
Although it is not super sweet like a fruit, it can also be used to make tea. You might see winter melon as a flavor at your favorite boba shop.
I have also heard it described as being similar to a watermelon rind.
Where to buy winter melon?
My parents grow winter melon in their backyard garden so I am lucky enough to get it fresh from them.
The plant grows hanging from a vine and has quite a long shelf life due to its waxy coating.
You can typically find winter melon at your local Asian supermarket. They may or may not have fuzzy hairs on them similar to a peach.
Winter melons are a light green color and longer than they are round. The ones that you typically see in stores are about the size of your forearm and about 2 pounds in weight, although they can grow to be quite larger.
Other names for winter melon include fuzzy melon or wax gourd.
What is a substitute for winter melon?
If you cannot find winter melon, the best substitute for this recipe would be opo squash (trái bầu) or chayote (trái su su).
These both have very similar flavors and texture to winter melon.
If you end up getting opo squash, I have a recipe for canh bầu or opo squash soup. It is very similar to canh bí. I cut it into shreds for that recipe but you can cut it into chunks as well.
Where to buy pork spare ribs?
Buying an attached rack is typically cheaper. However, make sure the bones are cut to the size of your liking. You can easily separate the ribs at home by cutting the meat in between each rib bone.
Typically American grocery stores only sell full size pork ribs. I do not recommend cutting pork bones at home with a knife for safety reasons. It is difficult to do without special equipment.
What protein can I use for canh bí?
The recipe I am sharing here uses pork spare ribs.
If you don’t want to deal with bones when eating, you can make this soup with ground pork.
You can turn the ground pork into little meatballs and add them into boiling broth to cook.
Alternatively, if you do not want to use pork, there is a common variation of this soup made with shrimp. It is called canh bí tôm.
You can follow the instructions to prepare the shrimp in my recipe for canh bầu tôm (opo squash soup with shrimp).
Lastly, canh bí is delicious without any meat as well. To make this vegetarian, simply leave out the pork spare ribs and chicken bouillon. Substitute chicken bouillon for mushroom seasoning, vegetable bouillon, or MSG.
Dishes to Serve With Canh Bí Sườn:
Leftover Storage & Reheating
This winter melon soup recipe makes enough for about 4 servings.
Soups are one of my favorite things to make a large pot of to save as leftovers to eat throughout the week.
Let the soup cool, then place in a sealed container, and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
To reheat, simply add the amount of soup you want to eat to a small pot on low to medium heat until it reaches your desired temperature. It does not need to be boiling.
Alternatively, you can also place it into a microwave safe bowl and reheat it in the microwave. Time depends on your preference and microwave, but a few minutes should be sufficient.
Avoid overheating since the winter melon is already cooked, you don’t want to soften it even more.
Save This Canh Bí Sườn Recipe!
I hope this tutorial for how to make canh bí sườn was helpful and that you try to recreate this winter melon soup with pork spare ribs at home!
It’s such a nostalgic recipe for many of us Vietnamese kids and also a great one to try if you want to learn more about Vietnamese homestyle cooking.
Be sure to save this so you remember to make it later and share this recipe with your family and friends!
Please leave a rating and comment below if you try it. I’d love to know what you think!
Did you make this recipe? I would love to see! Tag me on IG @feedmi_ or TikTok @feedmi
Canh Bí Sườn (Vietnamese Winter Melon Soup)
- 1 (~2 lbs) winter melon (trái bí)
- 1 lb pork spare ribs, 2-3 inch pieces
- 1 tbs chicken bouillon
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 cups water
- 2 green onions, sliced
- pinch of black pepper
- Wash, peel, and cut winter melon into 1-2 inch chunks. Discard the seeds in the middle.
- In a pot on medium heat, add enough water to cover the pork spare ribs, and boil for ~10 minutes. Then discard the water and rinse the pork and the pot. This removes the scum and impurities resulting in a clearer broth.
- Return the pork and pot back to the stove on medium heat. Add water, chicken bouillon, salt, and winter melon. Boil for about 10 minutes or until the winer melon is soft and translucent. Taste test and adjust it to your liking.
- Turn off the heat and finish it off with green onions, black pepper, and enjoy!