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Jook n' Fun - Bitter Melon?

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Had dinner at Jook n' Fun on Friday night. Ordered the sparerib and bitter melon chow fun and lettuce with spicy sauce. Is bittermelon an aquired taste, or what? The noodle dish was great, but i pretty much had to choke down the melon. It tasted good for a split second but then became way too bitter. I'd never eaten it before, and don't know if i will order it again....and I eat and like anything??? The kid serving me complimented me and said he was surprised I ate it, but i didn't mention that I didn't care for it. And the lettuce with sauce wasn't lettuce but some sort of asian green, with a great sauce consisting of little pieces of pork meat and pork fat in a sweet and kind of tangy tad bit tomatoey? sauce. it wasn't spicy at all but it was good. another really good meal...but do people actually like Bitter Melon?

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  1. I do know that bitter melon is an acquired taste. The joke in my family is that you know you're "old" when you actually like bitter melon (no offense to any chowhounds who like bitter melon). I don't know about the tomato sauce; the bitter melon dishes we've had (that I've never tasted) are usually in some sort of black/brown bean sauce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cindy

      the tomatoey type sauce was for the greens, the bitter melon was in the chow fun which had a brown type sauce.

    2. Bitter melon is, I believe, an acquired taste, which means that once you like it, you LOVE it. Your dish sounds wonderful; I'll have to Google to find out where JNF is.

      Buy a bitter melon and cook with it is my advice on how to love this wonderful and nutritious vegetable. The more you cook it, the more palatable it is to first-timers. Bitter Melon chips are a good start.

      1. okinawans LOVE bittermelon. in okinawa they even have a bittermelon drink! i'm only part okinawan, so i think it just tastes like evil.

        7 Replies
        1. re: umetaro

          I'm part Okinawan and I love it. I can't get goya champuru -- bitter melon stirfried with tofu, Spam and egg -- anywhere locally (except Mom's), so at B&M on 2nd in SF, I order it with tofu and blackbean sauce.

          In Okinawa there's also a bitter melon ice cream (sold under the Foremost Blue Seal label, which is I think the last place that label exists). I don't know if it's straight up, or if they mix it with something else, but it has a clean, citrusy flavor, with a moderately bitter finish. It's actually quite refreshing. I keep hoping one of the local shops, like Sketch, might pick up on it, but I guess that's unlikely.

          1. re: Debbie M

            Wait, there's Okinawan food in SF? 2nd and where??? I've seen Orion beer ("The Beer of Beers") but that's about as Okinawan as it gets around here.

            In other news, I'm going to start importing Hoppy, look for it as your izakaya drink of choice next summer.

            1. re: isaac1972

              B&M is on 2nd between Market and Mission. She meant she orders bitter melon w/ tofu in black bean sauce there, similar to one of her Okinawan dishes.

              1. re: kc72

                B&M is a Chinese restaurant that happens to have bitter melon on the menu. I think they actually have it as bitter melon beef, but you can kind of make up your own dish there, so I have it with tofu & black bean sauce.

                No real strong showing for Okinawan food in SF. Closest I've come is the Okinawa soba from the Happy Sushi truck (usually located on Bush somewhere between Montgomery & Market), which is operated by a couple from Okinawa.

                I've never had Hoppy, but I love the bottle!

                1. re: kc72

                  One of Sebo's co-chefs is half-Okinawan, but so far I've only read reports of the excellent sushi there.

                  1. re: kc72

                    Inoue/Ino san's wife is Okinawan. She gave me some sata andagi once and I ran out of the restaurant, chased by jealous friends, cackling the whole time.

              2. re: umetaro

                Hello Umetaro,
                My mother has been looking for a bitter melon candy do you know where she can get this?

              3. I think that you have to be over 35 to like bitter melon. As a kid and young adult I couldn't stand the taste of it. As I headed into my mid 30's I started to acquire a taste for it and now I love the stuff. Same goes for many friends of mine in the same age group.

                1. Bittermelon isn't for everyone. I happen to love it and I learned that from my grandmother. Bittermelon in a stir fry type dish is usually more bitter than a stew dish (which is what I prefer).

                  1. Bittermelon is for the most part an acquired taste if you like the full on bitterness. However, there are a couple of preps that reduce the bitterness to just a hint and actually, after eating, leaves a cool, tingling sensation in the back of your throat (kinda like artichokes).

                    You can get it in soup with pork spareribs and just drink the soup. Usually, so little bittermelon is put in that the bitterness has long dissapated and been replaced by nice pork broth.

                    The second trick, when buying to cook at home, is to choose the white bittermelons. They are the ones less exposed to sun and have a much tamer flavor (kinda like green and white asparagus). The only difference between the two is that to grow a white one, you just wrap it in newspaper or shield it from the sun.

                    Disclaimer: I'm under 35.

                    1. Oh my, my mom noticed the bitter melon on the specials board at JnF. Then when she saw a big plate of it delivered to the next table, she winced. Personally, we like it as a flavor ingredient, but then we eat around it.

                      Youngsters are more sensitive to bitter flavors, so it tastes different to them than to someone older. It's given to teenagers to cure acne. Let us know if your complexion improves!

                      1. Okinawa has bitter melon EVERYTHING. There's even a beer with bitter melon in it (called Goya Dry). Bitter melon candy? Yep. Bitter melon tea -- by the ton. Go figure; it's their national vegetable (well, prefectural vegetable to be precise).

                        1. Now I know where I'm lunching next...for the sparerib and bitter melon chow fun at J'nF. Love bitter melon. Is it really good for diabetics...or, is that an old wives' tale?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Cynsa

                            Per wikipedia, that stems from ayurvedic medicine. Don't know if western medicine subscribes to the idea.

                          2. This is forever an argument between me and my wife. She claims that bittermelon is good for you (that's the kiss of death as any child knows). There are claims of bittermelon being good for diabetes in all the Chinese writings. I know some people who claims to like it. Others tolerate it because, well, it's good for you.

                            I say, if it's so good, why do they call it **bitter** melon?

                            I also know that in some preparations, it's boiled first, and the bitter taste is lessened.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: PeterL

                              It's called bitter melon because it IS bitter. And people like me actually enjoy the bitterness. Also, in Chinese, it's not always refer to as bittermelon, especially when ordering at a restaurant. It is often referred to as cool/cold melon (I believe that's the translation....).

                              1. re: anna

                                Amen to the taste for bitter foods. Bitter melon is still a little out of my range, but I do enjoy good black olives, and take my coffee as G-d made it, black.

                                1. re: anna

                                  It's not called bitter melon in Chinese restaurants because they are trying to lie to you. It's bitter, call it bitter. Don't dress it up by calling it something else. "Cool" ("leung") melon indeed. To me there is nothing cool about it. It's bitter, it tastes bitter. Bitterness is actually a natural defense in some plants to keep from being eaten, that should tell you something. If it's so good tasting, then why do I need to be convinced to eat it because it's good for me? Do parents tell kids to eat icecream because it's good for them? No.

                                  Case closed.

                                  1. re: PeterL

                                    Thanks for making me laugh!
                                    This is why I like Chinese Winter Melon great texture, and NOT bitter!

                                    1. re: PeterL

                                      Also it's called cool because it is considered a *cold* food (in that cold vs hot ying vs yang sort of way). I like bitter melon for its bitter taste but then again I don't have a taste for anythign sweet either so go figure.

                                2. You people got to me and I've asked the question on the General Board.

                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  For SF, where can I find bitter melon chips?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: rworange

                                    You may have missed your chance. At the Kyushu-Okinawa fair at Mitsuwa in San Jose a few weeks ago they had goya chips (salted and fried, like potato chips).

                                    I think Ranch 99 may sell dried bitter melon for tea (as opposed to bitter melon tea bags). Bitter melon is used a lot in Indian cuisine, so you might check an Indian market.

                                    Be warned, though ... the deep-frying process enhances the bitterness!

                                    1. re: Debbie M

                                      My mom slices bitter melon very thinly; dries it on a tray in the sun - and then makes a tea from the dried melon.

                                      1. re: Cynsa

                                        I gotta ask...how bitter is the tea?

                                        1. re: kerwintoronto

                                          It's not bitter when she brews a weak tea. Mom drinks it hot in the morning and iced in the afternoon. It is a refreshing beverage, surprisingly palatable with a bitter melon finish.

                                    2. re: rworange

                                      Bitter melon chips are one of the easiest things to make, and they are best eaten fresh while hot. Packaged ones are not as good.
                                      See my new post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                      1. re: Tripeler

                                        Thank you Tripeler. That was very thoughtful. I do get carried away buying produce so if the bitter melon popsicles don't work out, I can give the chips a try.

                                    3. Gads, I like bitter melon and I just turned 35. Yikes...it may be true.

                                      However one of the problems when i was a kid my mother didn't quite cook it properly making the bitterness more pronounced.

                                      I understand that blanching it boiling water (or hot oil) for 30 seconds or so reduces the bitterness. And a dash of sugar in the cooking/stir-frying lightens it too.

                                      Funny on a classic chinese sauce for bitter melon is black bean. You work to take out one bitterness yet to add another kind of bitter back in the sauce.

                                      1. I do not like bittermelon, I LOVE IT! Being of Filipino heritage, some dishes using bittermelon are Pinakbet (meat and vegetable stew), Chicken Tinola (gingery chicken soup) and my favorite is bittermelon sauted with garlic and fermented brine shrimp. My challenge to you Chowhounds is if you think bittermelon is bitter, try eating bittermelon leaves. Yowza!

                                        1. Inspired by this thread, I had bitter melon for lunch today at China Tofu. They stir fired it with beef slices with a black bean sauce. Very delicious... although not bitter enough for me. I think they added a bunch of sugar to the sauce. This might be the preparation for those of you who adverse to too much bitter taste.
                                          China Tofu is in Union City.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: vliang

                                            Indian cooking uses bittermelon as well also known as Karela. my relatives use to soak sliced bittermelon in salted water later sqeezing the water out saying it cut some of the bitter taste but i dont know if that is true.