Find Bitter Melon Recipes From Soup, Stir Fry, Stew, Omelette and Chips 苦瓜食谱
As a child, I shun bitter gourds. As I became older, I grew to appreciate it in different bitter melon recipes.
But What is Bitter Melon?
Are they really bitter? How do you use bitter melon? How to cut and prepare it?
Bitter melon, or more accurately, bitter gourd, is very easy to identify. It has a bumpy, grooved skin. Like a cucumber with bad skin. There are a few varieties, mostly affecting the size and colour. Other names include bitter cucumber and balsam pear.
In Chinese cooking, anything bitter is thought to be good for health. Many Asians also believe the bitter gourd has medicinal properties.
Bitter gourd is rich in vitamins A and C. It contains substances that can stimulate the sensory nerves and improve appetite. Growing up, I am told to eat it because it helps dispel the oppressive tropical heat.
I think it’s popularity is also due to its association with diabetes management. It contains a substance that resembles insulin and is therefore capable of metabolizing and reducing blood sugar.
I’m all for food that are good for me but the bitterness can be off putting. There are, fortunately, a few ways to reduce the bitterness:
Blanch in salty water and then soak in cold water.
Rub with salt. Leave to stand for an hour. Squeeze the excess liquid, drain, rinse and dry before cooking.
Choose the young ones. The older they are, the more bitter they are.
In tropical Singapore, the most common ways to cook the bitter gourd are in soup, stir-fry and braise.
Bitter Melon Soup
The Tze Char (literally cook and fry) stalls in many coffee shops in Singapore has bitter melon soup on their menus. Almost always thinly sliced bitter melon swimming in a light broth with pork or fish, equally thinly sliced. Here's a home-styled take on it.
200g bitter melon (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.)
150g pork fillet
1 small carrot
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
500ml soup stock
Salt and pepper
Marinate for the pork slices
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
Cut the pork fillet into thin slices across the grain
Season with the marinate and leave it for about 15 - 30 minutes
Slice the melon in half and remove the centre spongy part and seeds leaving the green flesh
Slice it thinly, roughly the same size as the pork. You can use a mandolin or peeler to ensure thinness.
Wash the tomato and quartered it
Wash the carrot and slice thinly
Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the garlic
Add the 500ml stock and bring it to a boil
Add the bitter melon slices, tomato wedges, and carrot to the boiling liquid and lower to a medium heat
When the vegetables have soften, add the pork slices and cook till everything is done
Add salt and pepper to taste
Remove from heat and serve
Here’s a video demonstrating the technique.
Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup Recipe 酿苦瓜汤 (niang ku gua tang)
Stuffing bitter melon rings is another common way to prepare it. Cut the melon into sections, remove the spongy middle portion and replace with ground pork or fish mixture. The bitter melon is quite firm and stands long cooking.
The stuffed gourd can be cooked in soup or steamed. The juices from the steaming can be the base for a glazing sauce for the melons.
Wash the bitter gourd. Trim the stem and cut the bitter gourd cross-wise forming bitter gourd rings. Remove the spongy portion and seeds.
Rinse the goji berries, drain for use
Marinate the ground pork with half of the cooking wine, chopped spring onion, and ground ginger and mix well
Add the salt, 5-spice powder, egg white, 25ml soup stock, and sesame seed oil. Mix till slightly sticky
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.
Bring the soup stock to a boil in a deep soup pot together with the cooking wine, chopped spring onion and ginger.
Add the stuffed bitter gourd rings and cook till done (that is when they float to the surface
Add the goji berries and season with salt and pepper to preferred taste
Stir Fry Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is usually stir-fried with condiments with strong flavours. For example, XO sauce, preserved black bean paste, and szechuan peppercorns.
XO Sauce Bitter Melon Recipe
XO sauce is a spicy condiment made from dried scallop, chilli peppers, Chinese ham, dried shrimp, garlic, and oil. It has quite an intense taste. The dried seafood is not ground smooth, you can still see and taste bits of them in the sauce.
To make a non-spicy version of this dish, use preserved black bean paste 黑豆豉 (hei dou chi).
200g bitter melon
2 tbsp XO sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Cut the melon in half and remove the seeds and spongy white stuff in the middle
Slice the melon thinly
Blanch the melon slices for 3-4 minutes in salty water. Remove and drain
Heat up a tbsp of cooking oil and gently fry the XO sauce until fragrant
Add the bitter melon and the seasonings
Stir fry to mix the sauce and melon slices well
Remove from heat and serve
Salted Egg Yolk Bitter Gourd Recipe
Adding salted egg yolk sauce to dishes is hot in Singapore right now. Bitter gourd seems like a good candidate. :)
300g bitter gourd
2 salted eggs
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
Steam or boil the salted eggs until it is cooked
Remove the shells and egg white
Place the yolks in a bowl and mash into a paste
Wash the bitter melon and cut into thin slices
Parboil the melon pieces in some boiling water with some sugar and cooking oil
Remove and drain
Melt the butter in a wok on low heat
Add the mashed egg yolk and stir fry until fragrant
Add the bitter melon slices and seasonings
Stir to coat the bitter melon with the egg yolk
Plate and serve
You can turn these into vegetarian bitter melon recipes by using vegetarian condiments like preserved black bean paste or sichuan peppercorns. Lightly frying with garlic and ginger is also a great vegetarian technique.
Braised Bitter Melon Chicken Recipe 苦瓜鸡煲 (ku gua ji bao)
4 chicken wings
1 bitter gourd
1 tbsp Chu-Hou paste 柱侯酱 (zhu hou jiang)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp minced garlic and ginger
Watch how this dish is done in this video
Omelettes and Chips
Frying bitter melon with eggs is also a popular method. Eggs goes well with many things. I prefer omelettes over egg stir fry.
Bitter Melon Omelette
200g or 1 medium sized bitter gourd
Salt and pepper to taste
See how it is done by this clever dad using a wok. I had done it before in a flat frying pan, which I prefer.
Bitter Melon Chips
Bitter melon chips is a popular Malay snack. Turmeric is added to the batter and gives the chips a slightly spiced flavour.
There are many more recipes using bitten melons. I hope you have found my selections useful.
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