Chamae was born in India, cultivated in China, and introduced to Korea during Korea’s Three Kingdom Era. Prized since, this summer superfruit is jam-packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and calcium, and is especially beneficial as the temperatures rise when our bodies crave foods to cool us and help us fight fatigue. As we sweat, we need alkalizing foods like chamae to rebalance our pH levels, giving us more energy, better digestion and skin, improved alertness and deeper sleep.
Look for fruit with straight white lines—the straighter, the tastier—and a clean, honeyed aroma. Squeeze and feel for a little give. The whole melon is edible, even the peel, and especially the seeds, where the sweetest part of the melon lies.
We give you two recipes to celebrate this fetching fruit: one simple and one more involved, both refreshing and perfect for summer.
Chamae with honey, chili and lemon
½ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon gochuggaru (ground red pepper) or more
juice of one lemon
Scrub the peel of each melon well. Peel or leave the skin on, as you prefer. Chop into bite-sized pieces. Whisk the remaining ingredients together and toss with the fruit. Chill for at least an hour.
4–5 chamae (about 1½ cups peeled and chopped)
2 tablespoons minced spring onions
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (the fruitier, the better)
1 cup bread, stale and without crusts
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
¾ teaspoon salt
Peel and chop each melon. An easy way to go about this is to cut the melon in half, then into wedges, and take the peel away from each wedge with a paring knife.
Puree the chopped melon, spring onions and olive oil. Meanwhile, soak the bread in water for 15 minutes. Squeeze water from the bread and add it in pieces to the pureed melon, onions and oil. Add vinegar and salt. Chill for at least an hour or two, ideally overnight. As time goes on, the onion will mellow to the background, becoming almost indistinguishable. Here’s where the melon’s mild-tempered, aromatic sweetness really shines. Adjust with more vinegar or salt at the end just before serving.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh basil, spring onion and a swirl of olive oil.
Thanks to Jihye Han for research assistance.