Mention the word “dessert” anywhere in America, and this will probably conjure up images of cakes, pies, cookies, and ice cream for most people. But I think of freshly cut fruit. Sure, there were plenty of Oreos during my childhood too, but they functioned more as snacks than an after-dinner treat. In our Korean-American household, fruit is what we always ate after dinner, specifically chamoe.
Chamoe, usually referred to as “Korean melon” at supermarkets, is an oblong yellow fruit with alternating white indented lines that run across the length of its rind, and it’s about the size of a big fist. (Its other name, “Oriental melon,” isn’t used much anymore.) Though it’s spelled “chamoe,” it sounds more like chameh when people say it quickly.
The fruit is eaten most frequently in summer, and it’s another one of those Korean foods that pair fantastically with the hottest months of the year. All you need to do is keep it chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it (unless you want to ripen it, in which case you can keep it out for a few days). Peel it, slice it in half, then cut it into long wedges.
It has a lightly sweet taste, not nearly as sugary as a ripe cantaloupe, and has a satisfying crunch to it that’s similar to watermelon rind. The overall flavor is delicate, containing a mild melony quality you’re probably familiar with in honeydew and cantaloupe too, just a little more floral. The sweetness is concentrated in the pulp immediately surrounding the seeds, which are also edible. We always scraped out the seeds since there’s so many of them, but that delicate pulp is gold and should be enjoyed if you can flick out a reasonable amount of seeds (or don’t mind just eating them).
And really, that’s it. The melon isn’t dressed with sugar, tossed into a salad, or any of that. It’s just a refreshing finisher to your meal, one that won’t leave you feeling bogged down. Since chamoe is a summertime fruit, if you go visit your local Asian supermarket right now and there’s a good chance you’ll see these gems in the produce section. Grab one and enjoy it on a sunny day while you’re chillin’ on your back porch. Unlike ice cream, it won’t melt in the heat.