What is Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is a commonly used vegetable in many Asian cuisines and is referred to as "bitter gourd" or "gourd." It belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes squash and pumpkins, and comes in green or yellow varieties of color. It has a distinct taste due to its high concentration of compounds. You can find them in most Asian grocery stores.
What does Bitter Melon Taste Like?
Stuffed bitter melon is a traditional Hakka dish. Despite my dislike of bitter melon when I was a kid, I'm now a huge fan. This bitter melon recipe can be quite yummy if cooked properly. The taste of bitter melon depends on the variety you buy, some have more of an earthy spice flavor, while others are slightly sweeter or milder.
There are two types of bitter melon: one with extremely bumpy and spiky skin and one is darker green in color. Another type has smoother skin and is lighter green in color. I believe the darker spiky one tastes more bitter. I am using the lighter green bitter melon in this recipe. Chinese believe this plant has healing and medicinal properties, as well as a cooling (Yin) effect on the body.
The secret of this dish is to use ground pork and Asian sauce to balance the bitterness of the bitter melon.
Ground pork: ground pork with some fat will be tastier, juicier, and more tender. However, you can prepare the stuffing with lean pork or substitute it with other kinds of minced meat.
Cornstarch: cornstarch is important because it acts like glue to keep bitter melon and pork filling together.
Asian seasonings: I use soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil.
Health Benefits of Bitter Melon
Bitter melon's health benefits are numerous: it can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol while boosting your immune system. It contains anti-cancer properties and antioxidants and is a natural diuretic. Also, bitter melon contributes to insulin production and glucose tolerance in the body, so it can be included in a diabetic diet.
This vegetable's bitter component helps improve digestion and relieve gas and bloating. Bitter melon is also high in vitamin C, essential for healthy skin formation.
How to Prepare Bitter Melon to be Less Bitter?
Bitter melon is a delicious and nutritious vegetable that can be prepared in many ways and used as an ingredient in many kinds of dishes: stir fry, red braise, or soup, you name it.
You can start by cutting the bitter melon in half and taking out all the seeds with a spoon. Next, peel away any tough outer skin from each side of the fruit and slice it into thin pieces or as desired (approximately 1 inch thick).
Boil bitter melon for 1 minute before cooking, it helps to get rid of the bitter taste by doing so. Also, adding a couple of drops of olive oil while boiling can help the bitter melon to keep its bright green color, which I did.
Tips and Trick
- Choose the ground pork 70/30 fat. More fat produces more moisture.
- Press the ground pork filling down a few times before you cook it. The filling normally will shrink after cooking, so by pressing down the meat make sure there is no gap between the bitter melon rings and the filling.
- Have the patience to cook this dish on low medium-low heat, so the dish can get properly cooked and turn to a nice brown color. Do not cook this dish on high heat to prevent burning.
How to Make this Recipe Step by Step
Prepare the bitter melons: Cut each bitter melon into 1-inch rings. Scoop out the spongy white pulp and seeds at the center of each slice with a spoon. Add the bitter melon to boiling water for 2-3 minutes, add a pinch of salt and olive oil. Drain with cold running water.
Prepare the stuffing: In a large mixing bowl, blend all the sauces with the ground pork.
Stuff the bitter melons: Stuff the pork mixture into the center of each bitter melon ring. Pat the surface on each side, so the pork mixture is level on each side of the melon rings. Dust a thin layer of cornstarch on both sides of the stuffed bitter melon rings.
Brown the stuffed bitter melon: About 3 minutes per side or until the surface turns golden brown in color.
Pour the Braising sauce: Pour the sauce mixture over the stuffed bitter melon rings, and simmer for another 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
Stuffed Bitter Melon Recipe Variations
The amount of sauce: I have to say it came out well. I made just enough braise sauce to coat the stuffed bitter melon. Some people prefer more sauce, you can double up the sauce if you want to.
Filling: Mushrooms, shrimp, or your favorite vegetable can all be added to the filling. You can substitute my braise sauce with black bean sauce if you prefer.
Cooking method: Instead of pan-fried, you can change to a steamed dish if you want fewer calories.
You can keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can also make the pork filling ahead of time and store it in the freezer to save some time. Freeze leftover filling in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Bitter melon is a good choice for a change if you're looking for an alternative to standard vegetables like broccoli or spinach, and it is perfect for sautéing. I hope you enjoyed this post, try it, and let me know how yours turns out. Happy cooking! 😊
Bitter Melon Recipe
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 pound bitter melon about 2-3 medium size bitter melons
For the ground pork filling:
- Cut each bitter melon into 1-inch rings. Scoop out the spongy white pulp and seeds at the center of each slice with a spoon.
- Bring water to a boil and add the bitter melon. Add in a pinch of salt and a pinch of olive oil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain with cold running water.
- In a large mixing bowl, blend all the sauces with the ground pork and set aside.
- Stuff the pork mixture into the center of each bitter melon ring. Pat the surface on each side, so the pork mixture is level on each side of the melon rings. Dust a thin layer of cornstarch on both sides of the stuffed bitter melon rings.
- Now let’s make the sauce: combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, and cornstarch and stir until the mixture has no more lumps.
- Heat cooking oil in a nonstick pan, slowly arrange each stuffed bitter melon ring in the pan, and carefully turn it around after one side is browned with chopsticks in medium-low heat. About 3 minutes per side or until the surface turns golden brown in color.
- Sprinkle minced garlic and let cook until fragrant.
- Pour the sauce mixture over the stuffed bitter melon rings, and simmer for another 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.
- Serve immediately with steamed white rice and enjoy!