2 Bitter Melon Recipes Using Pork

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2 simple bitter melon recipes using pork cuts. Include some facts about the bitter gourd.

As a child, I shun bitter melon, it is just too bitter. As I become older, I grew to appreciate it and it began with this lean pork soup, also known as 瘦肉苦瓜汤. It helped a lot that someone dear cooked it really well for me.

Bitter melon soup with lean pork slices

Homemade bitter melon soup. Photo by Phoebe Lim.

This recipe is a basic one. Add shrimps, mushrooms and egg if they are available in the house.

Ingredients

  • 200g bitter melon
  • 150g pork fillet
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tomato
  • 500ml soup stock
  • Cooking oil
  • Tapioca flour
  • Salt and pepper

Do not fuss over the quantity of bitter melon here. Use a medium sized melon and if it is less or more than 200g, leave it.

Marinate

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce

Directions

  1. Clean the pork fillet, cut into thin slices across the grain
  2. Season with the marinate and leave it for about 15 - 30 minutes
  3. Slice the melon in half and remove the centre spongy part and seeds leaving the green flesh
  4. Slice it thinly, roughly the same size as the pork
  5. Wash the tomato and quartered it
  6. Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the garlic
  7. Add the 500ml stock and bring it to a boil
  8. Add the bitter melon slices, tomato wedges to the boiling liquid and lower to a medium heat
  9. Add the tapioca flour to the marinated pork and mix it well
  10. Add the pork and cook till everything is done
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste
  12. Remove from heat and serve

Stuffed Bitter Gourd Recipe

Stuffing bitter melon rings is another common way to prepare it. Stuffing is usually made from pork or fish paste. Choose small slim bitter gourd for this dish. It will make keeping the stuffing in easier. 

Stuffed bitter melon rings can also be steamed on its own. Use the steam juice to make a sauce or glaze for the rings before serving. 

Ingredients

  • 250g bitter gourd
  • 100g ground lean pork
  • 10g goji berries
  • 10g chopped spring onion
  • 10g ground ginger
  • 10g cooking wine
  • 3g salt
  • 0.5g 5-spice powder
  • 1 egg white
  • 700g soup stock
  • 5g sesame seed oil 
  • Cornstarch

Directions

  1. Wash the bitter gourd. Trim the stem and cut the bitter gourd cross-wise forming bitter gourd rings. Remove the spongy portion and seeds. 
  2. Rinse the goji berries, drain for use
  3. Marinate the ground pork with half of the cooking wine, chopped spring onion, and ground ginger and mix well
  4. Add the salt, 5-spice powder, egg white, 25ml soup stock, and sesame seed oil. Mix till slightly sticky
  5. Stuff the pork mixture into the middle of the ring of each bitter gourd. Sprinkle a little cornstarch on each side and pat gently to coat.
  6. Add the rest of the soup stock together with the rest of the cooking wine, chopped spring onion and ginger into a soup pot. Bring the soup to a boil. 
  7. Add the stuffed bitter gourd rings and cook till done (when they float to the surface
  8. Add the goji berries and season with salt and pepper to preferred taste

Medicinal Benefits

In Asia, anything bitter is thought to be good for health, many Asians believe the bittergourd or bitter melon has medicinal properties.

Science has shown that the bitter gourd is rich in vitamins A and C. It contains substances that can stimulate the sensory nerves and improve appetite. It also contains a substance that resembles insulin and is therefore capable of reducing blood sugar. Its ability to metabolize blood sugar means that it is a suitable addition to the diabetes diet.

This uniquely asian vegetable, also known as bittergourd, bitter cucumber or balsam pear. 

What does a bitter melon look like?

Bitter melon is very easy to identify. It is pale or dark green, cucumber-like with a bumpy, grooved skin. 

bitter melons in various sizes. Photo by Seth Anderson.

the inside of the bitter melon. Photo by Looseid

Reducing the bitter bite

The best way to introduce it to the diet of someone who isn't used to bitter vegetables is to try to reduce the bitterness.

There are a few ways to do this. One, slice it thinly and parboil it in salty water until it is soft but not overcooked. Then, add it to soups or stir-fries with lots of other ingredients.

Two, cut them up, remove the spongy portion and seeds and rub with salt. Leave to stand for a hour or so before cooking. Rinse and dry before cooking.

fresh thinly sliced balsam pear. Photo by Masaaki Komori

Younger fruits are less bitter so many are picked while still young. There is, however, a market for mature bitter melons.

Happy Souping, Phoebe