10/03/2008

Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-fry (How to Prepare) - [Cooking]

(Pictures for this recipe taken with my Canon Rebel XTi.)

Crunch time is an inescapable fact of life in the IT industry. As a software developer, you're inevitably called upon to work through lunches, stay late into the night, and come in on weekends. To "make up" for the inconvenience, most companies will provide lunch and dinner during extended work hours. Since pizza is the cheapest and fastest way to feed a large number of people, you end up eating a whole lot of it. Pizza and caffeinated soft drinks practically fuel the software development business.



After the working on a big project for the better part of a week, and a number of calorie dense meals later, yours truly was feeling like an overstuffed calzone. There was pizza in my belly, pizza in my veins, and pizza coming out of my pores. Luckily, my local farmers market held the cure for my abused, bloated, and sluggish body; bitter melon.



Popular in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, bitter melon is a used as a digestive stimulant. It's considered a purgative, and is recommended by the Chinese as an aid to cleansing the body of heavy or oily meals. Although the melon can be quite astringent, the bitterness can be made mild and refreshing when properly prepared. I eat stir-fried bitter melon as part of a detox diet whenever I've overindulged in too much fatty food.

How to Prepare Chinese Bitter Melon


Gear:

1 Chinese cleaver
1 cutting board
1 wok or frying pan
1 Chinese ladle or spatula


Ingredients:



1 large bitter melon (Greener melons are sweeter)
1/4 lbs of bacon, salt pork, or Chinese BBQ pork
3 green onion stalks
1 tsp of ginger (optional)
2 tsp of vegetable oil (preferably rice bran oil)
Sea salt to taste


Prep work:



Slice the pork into 1-1/2 inch strips roughly the size of your pinky. Although this dish is a light one, the richness of the small amount of pork we're using will help smooth out the sharpness of the bitter melon. While I prefer to use Chinese BBQ pork that I smoke myself, you can use store bought, bacon, or salt pork for this recipe. If you don't eat pork or are vegetarian/vegan, small dried shrimp or reconstituted dried shitake mushrooms will also work.



Split the bitter melon in half and remove the pith and seeds. While some cultures use the raw innards in salads, the seeds have been known to cause nausea. I find it best to discard them.

Slice the melon halves into crescents roughly 1/4 inch wide. Toss with 2 tbsp of salt until evenly coated and let sit for one hour. This step will help temper the intense bitterness of the melon by pulling out some of the fluid.

Thinly slice the green onions. Grate the ginger, removing any stringy fibers.


Instructions:



Bring four cups of water to a boil and pour over the bitter melon pieces. Drain immediately, then rinse with cold water. Drain thoroughly, then set aside.



Heat your wok over a medium flame. Add the oil and your pork together. Render the pork until crispy. Remove the pork and turn the flame up to high.



Once the wok is smoking hot, add the pork, green onions, and ginger, stirring vigorously for 10 seconds.



Add the bitter melon and toss gently for one minute until heated through. Salt to taste. Plate and serve.




Quick and easy to prepare, Chinese bitter melon is an excellent curative when you're feeling bloated or listless. My recipe for Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-fry is light and refreshing without being too bitter. It's best enjoyed at room temperature with rice or over a fresh garden salad.

Serves 2-4.

Good eating!

12 comments:

Your wok looked awesome! Mmm...now I want to go try this recipe.

LOL, I cracked up when I saw your post. I guess bitter melon has a special power to make bloggers blog about it on the same day. Your white bitter melon is so much purtier than my green one.

Hey ChubbyPanda - lol re: the pizza/soda filled coding binges. In Vancouver, some companies mix it up with sushi platters, Nando's chicken, Chinese takout, subs, etc. Crunch time is inevitable, but at least it's not always pizza. Perhaps a hint to the PM next time may do the trick?

I've found bitter gourd/melon to be one of those polarizing foods - people like it or they don't. I personally like it with beef stir fry and plenty of "wok hei".

I want to try this recipe too! I have used bitter melon in a chicken stew/soup that I make with bone-in chicken thighs, ginger, onions, garlic and a couple dashes of fish sauce. Throw in some bitter melon and some bean thread noodles and serve with some fresh rice! The bitter melon is such a nice contrast with the broth.

I like bitter melon lots! Esp with plain porridge/congee :)

Chengdugirl,

It's a pretty standard Chinese stir-fry formula I think. Just like our moms make. =)

ShavedIceSundays,

Kirk from mmm-Yoso!!! and I have a theory about blog-rhythms. There are times of the year when food bloggers find themselves writing posts independently on very similar topics. A while back, a bunch of us went through a com tam spree. Made for some good fun.

ET,

Wok hei is where it's at, baby. I'd love to mix it up a little, but our company has a huge IT department. I don't think they can spend more than $5/person during prolonged crunch periods. Means we eat a lot of pizza or sandwiches.

FoodieInDisguise,

Ooooh... That sounds good. I'll try whipping that up soon and give you credit in my article.

Tigerfish,

That's a little too hardcore for me. =)

- CP

CP those pictures make it all look so good! I like the theory behind the vegetable and must check it out - the name just doesn't sound enticing... I often am looking for something to balance out my frequent sojourns through plates of greasy, cheesey and fried foods...

Foodhoe,

The name is a warning. elonweis has a story about a friend of her's who recently tried bitter melon and exclaimed, "That's really bitter!" Her response? "That's why we call it bitter melon." Only true foodies need apply. (^_^)

- CP

I'm cooking stir fried bitter melon now, and caught onto your site when I googling for tips on how to degorge the bitterness =)

I luvvvv bitter melon so much that I've toured the entire Singapore looking for the best~~

One thing my mum-in-law does with it is to stir-fry prawn heads first and use the oil to fry the bitter melon, finishing it off with one beaten egg~~~~ YUM!!!!

Dean,

That sounds like an awesome idea. Bitter melon with prawn oil. What a treat!

- CP

My grandma cooked bitter bitter melon a lot. I remember not being able to stand that stuff as a kid, but this looks appetizing. Is this white melon a different variety?

This is probably one of the best dishes I've seen on the net. Great picture quality! What kind of camera did you use? I'm getting pretty hungry again...and the funny thing is I just finished eating lunch.