I grew up eating cantaloupe two ways: piercing perfectly ripe cubes with a fork to shovel into my mouth, and sipping melon—sweetened cantaloupe juice—from a cold glass. I have vivid memories of drinking countless glasses of melon, a popular drink that Filipinos imbibe to beat the sweltering tropical heat. The chilled beverage is a staple in our culture—I’ve enjoyed countless glasses both with my grandparents in the Philippines and at a bustling restaurant in Queens, New York. Served in a tall glass with ice, the long, rounded, pastel-hued strands of cantaloupe swim in their own sweetened juice. Its mellow, floral-sweet taste will quench anyone’s thirst on a hot day.
Traditionally, those signature cantaloupe strands are made using a melon scraper, which is tough to find outside of the Philippines. I couldn’t get my hands on one when developing this recipe, so I experimented with two different options: a fork and spoon, and a coconut grater. The fork-and-spoon method does a decent job of making those long strands, but it’s more time consuming and the resulting strands aren’t all that pretty. On the other hand, the coconut grater cuts through the cantaloupe’s flesh like butter, yielding beautiful strips that are just slightly heftier than the norm. Either method will produce a delicious melon. (Alternatively, you can cut the cantaloupe into large pieces and then shred it in your food processor using the grating disc to produce shorter strands that, while atypical, will still be tasty).
Once the entire cantaloupe is shredded, granulated sugar and water are stirred in and the juice is transferred to the refrigerator to chill. When it’s ready, fill a glass with ice and pour the juice over, making sure that some cantaloupe flesh ends up in there. You can add a straw and spoon for easy drinking and scooping. Lately, I’ve been enjoying my melon with a splash of milk (its richness balances out the juice’s sweetness), and I suggest you do the same.