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Do people really like bitter melon?

There is a discussion going on the SF board right now and I'm a little annoyed. It turns out people really DON'T like bitter melon all that much.

I'm annoyed because I have tried in the past to show my appreciation for all things Chinese and not being a food wimp ... yeah, bitter melon ... I'll have that ... yeah, uh ... interesting ... I like the contrast of ...

Well, you get the idea ... my little culinary tap dance not to look like a doof because ... yes ... I'll admit it here ... I really DON'T like bitter melon !!!

However, the mention of bitter rmelon ice cream in this thread has me intrigued ... and bitter melon chips ... where can I get those? They might pair up nice WITH the ice cream.

Here's the topic on the SF Board

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

Supposedly it is a food that once you aquire a taste it is a craving. Also, it is 'old people's food' because most people don't like it until later in life ... Don't trust any bitter melon until you are over 30.

Too bad because it is supposed to clear acne ... and for the older folks, good for diabetes according to folk lore.

Supposedly Okinawans LOVE bitter melon, but one person thought the bitter melon drink "tastes like evil". There is an Okinawan dish - goya champuru -- bitter melon stirfried with tofu, Spam and egg. Yikes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Go...

One poster said "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)."

The white bitter melons, grown wrapped in newspaper, are supposed to be milder. Also putting it in soup or as an accent is supposed to be the way to go. Salting, blanching or pickling it cuts the bitterness ... a bit.

The Chinese term for it is really translated to cool/cold melon.

Here's a Wikipedia article (pretty flower). There's a link at the end to The National Bitter Melon Council which celebrated bitter melon week in July 2005.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_m...

So, do YOU like bitter melon?

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  1. winter melon is the one that is translated to cold melon. in cantonese, "dong gua". bitter melon is "fu gua". and the translations is.. bitter melon.

    i hated it as a kid. my mother made bitter melon soup and forced me to drink it because it's supposedly good for me. i had to hold my nose and force it down.

    now, i like it. i like the bitterness. i like it when she makes bitter melon with beef in a black bean and garlic sauce. i also occasionally get it at dim sum if they have it. never craved it though... except now. that's a first.

    4 Replies
    1. re: rolypoly

      No "dong gua" is winter melon. "dong" refers to the cold season, i.e. winter, not cold melon. Another name for bitter melon is "leung gua", "leung" meaning "cool".

      1. re: PeterL

        you're right. i forget fu gua is also called leung gua. actually when you order in restaurants, they call it leung gua. but i'm used to calling it fu gua at home. my chinese sucks. spent thousands on chinese lessons and i really don't have much to show for it. :\

      2. re: rolypoly

        This is the only way I can stand eating it. Black bean and garlic sauce. I think every other way is just too much for me. My brother and parents think I'm the weird one for not liking it so much. Yes as a kid who wouldn't think this is disgusting stuff?? Better now that I'm older, but ordering at a restaurant?? why torture myself?!?!?

        1. re: rolypoly

          LOL, i could totally remember me and my brother doing the same thing, hold our nose and just suck it up, with our mom standing next to us. how i miss those soups, sighs..

        2. I used to hate it as a child, but my mother loved the stuff. She stuffed it with meat and cooked it in a delicious sauce. We would pick out the meat, eat the sauce and leave the rings of melon behind.

          The expression I remember is that bitter melon "cools the blood", it's a yang food. Lots of people swear by its antioxidant properties.

          Now I'm older I've grown to like it occasionally, just as I like other bitter foods - kale, broccoli rabe, mustard greens - but fu gua is a whole different level of intense bitterness.

          1. See this link for a similar discussion on the LA Board last year:

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

            Me? I love the stuff.

            1. Okinawans call it goya, but Japanese call in nigauri, which I think literally translates to "bitter melon."

              Here's a link to a goya recipe contest held in Honolulu:

              http://starbulletin.com/2006/06/07/fe...

              There's a couple of recipes at the end, including one for raspberry bittermelon ice cream.

              1. i personally do not like bitter melon - yet. growing up my father and grandparents grew bitter melon on the back porch. we had vines full of these white warty looking gourds. whenever i saw they were big enough to eat i knew i would be forced to eat some. of course, my dad never made me eat a lot of it. he said i had to taste some so that i would like it later on, when i grew up. i think that's the way. it's definitely an acquired taste. i don't like it yet, but i try it once in a while to see whether that's changed. have other peoples' chinese parents made them eat bitter melon, saying you'd like it when you were older?

                1. I love it - esp. raw tossed with some garlic, soy sauce, ground pepper, green onions, and chili paste.

                  1. Mmmm, I love it...The hottest day of last year's summer, i had some in black bean sauce and sea conch with a friend...soooo good!~
                    So cooling, I may have to get some today.....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: galleygirl

                      Oh no; I went to the Asian grocery, and there were two sorry little specimens left on the counter...Presumably, the last two days of scorching weather sent everyone running for its cooling effects... :(

                    2. I like it stirfried with either beef of chicken and blackbean-garlic sauce. It definitely is something you have to acquire a taste for.

                      I blanch it before stir frying, seems to take some of the bitterness out.

                      1. We used to have a mister juiceman thing from costco. One went to my inlaws, and they put all sorts of vegetable goodness in the juicer, including bitter melon (egggad). They're supposedly much healthier now.

                        Bitter melon makes beef taste better, but the key is a good industrial kitchen wok and heat (aka top notch chef at a Cantonese restaurant who knows what he or she is doing). I would imagine the off season bitter melons that have less water content in them are even more bitter (just like with leafy greens).

                        1. LOVE bitter melon when it's cooked properly; a certain amount of bitterness in combination with other savoury flavours can be good. Really enjoyed a Thai bitter melon salad, and also dig the Indian curries.

                          1. The over 30 rule applied to me. I know it as goya or nigaouri. My mother introduced me to it when I was a kid and perioodically I would try it, but it wasn't until I was well into my 30's that I started to really enjoy it. I like it stir fried with tofu and any other fixins I feel like adding to it. I also like it in curry as well, which a Pakistani friend of mine turned me on to, seeds and all. I think the trick is getting the right amount of bitterness in your dish. I've never tried it raw...I'll have to definitely try ipsedixit's recipe; sounds refreshing in this hot summer heat!

                            1. I'm not a bitter melon fan. I've heard that the Indian/Pakistani cultivar is less bitter. It has certainly seemed so when I've had it with chicken in curry. Have also heard that bitter melon can be frozen and eaten like a popsicle, and is less bitter that way.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                We had neighbors from Bangla Desh in Nashville and they grew it on our common fence, and told us to help ourselves. I soaked it cut up in salt water for a while, then used it in gumbos, alongside the opo that my niece had turned me onto (her husband then was Filipino). I enjoyed it, though not enough to become fanatical about it. Mrs. O, not so much.

                              2. I absolutely love bitter melon. In fact, I had such a craving that I bought some at the farmer's market this past weekend and am going to cook it up for dinner later this week. Bitter melon with ground pork, black beans, and/or shrimp are all quite tasty to me.

                                1. Rworange, almost exactly this time last year, bitter melon kicked my butt. Read gruesome details here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  In contrast to Melanie's comment above, one farmer told me that his Indian variety was MORE bitter than the standard variety. I was not brave enough to test this...

                                  Despite my valiant efforts, I never made friends w/ the thing. I may never eat it again and can't say that I feel a loss for it. I may have to try it cooked by a restaurant or someone who knows what they are doing just to make sure it wasn't user error. My husband absolutely cannot stand it, and it will not be pretty if I try to serve it at home again.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Carb Lover

                                    I heard the same thing, that the Indian variety (darker and lumpier) was more bitter. Goya is closer to this than the Chinese variety.

                                    The first time I bought bitter melon, I left them on the counter (as opposed to storing it in the fridge). One morning I was heading out the door to work, noticed the few I hadn't yet used were turning a little yellow, and made a mental note that I should cook it that night. When I returned home that evening, they had uniformly turned a deep, bright yellow, and had split open, spilling brilliant crimson seeds on the counter. It was almost like there had been some sort of nuclear incident while I was at work. After marvelling at their beauty, I threw them away.

                                    My question is, does anyone know if it's still edible in this state, and is there any difference in taste?

                                    1. re: Debbie M

                                      I have no idea if yours were still edible after the "explosion." I don't recall crimson seeds in mine. Too bad you didn't have a chance to try it, but you don't sound THAT disappointed. ;-P

                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        A green one will have white seeds. The ripening process, which seemingly happened in the 9-10 hrs. I was at work, turned the placid white seeds a violent crimson! Yes, it was that dramatic!

                                        According to this page, which has a picture of a "ripe" melon, I guess you can eat them at that point. Maybe they're even a little mellower.

                                        http://milonee.net/bengali_recipes/bi...

                                    2. re: Carb Lover

                                      Thanks for adding your battle with the bitter melon to this topic. Really amusing. I'm really enjoying reading everyone's experiences with bitter melon.

                                      I am still, I don't know why, taken with the idea of bitter melon ice cream. If I could cook and had an ice cream maker I might try two of the recipes mentioned in the bitter melon. org link ...

                                      BITTER MELON AND HONEYDEW SORBETTO
                                      RASPBERRY BITTER MELON ICE CREAM

                                      Maybe I'll just try Melanie's suggestion and try freezing one for a bitter melon popsicle. You wouldn't kid me about that, would you Melanie?

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Fulfill your paleta craving all in one fell swoop.

                                      2. re: Carb Lover

                                        From your food preferences, I've suspected that you're a super-taster, and not being able to tolerate bitter melon fits right in there.

                                      3. I don't think I'm old enough to appreciate bitter melon cooked Chinese style (and I've tried it year after year after year), but I do occasionally enjoy the indian style bitter melon in a dry curry (guess the spices and salt mask the bitter taste better for me).

                                        1. I've only tried bitter melon a handful of times, and have never really cared much for it. It didn't disgust me or anything, just was not something I'd order if I had a range of other dishes to choose from.

                                          I'm glad some people love it though - I'd hate to think it had heretofore been consumed only because everyone was just too polite to say "No thank you!"

                                          Bitter melon lovers of the world, please keep ordering it, and please keep sharing it with those of us who have yet to acquire the taste! Maybe we just haven't had the right bitter melon for us YET.

                                          1. This may not make any difference if you don't like bitter melon, but I was always told to look for darker green melons. I think they become more intense as they mature and turn yellowish.

                                            1. My local Cantonese place occasionally does bitter melon with beef and black bean sauce. My experience is that I like the first quarter or half of the dish - I like some bitter things and love hoppy beer.

                                              But then the bitterness starts cloying. There is only so much of it I can take. I wish it had been available one of the times a group of us will get together for a feast at the restaurant. I would love 3 or 4 tastes of it as long as I had other dishes to provide variation and other flavors.

                                              ed

                                              1. From a cooking website:

                                                "Younger, less mature fruits are generally more bitter. Riper melons that are milder in bitterness are lighter green in color with tinges of yellow on the outside. Inside, the spongy covering of the seeds would have turned from light greenish white to bright red."

                                                http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/reci...

                                                1. Bitter Melon is very important to diabetics.
                                                  Bitter Melon is a crucial, essential vegetable for controlling
                                                  glucose in the blood.
                                                  Amla and Bitter Melon are very important for health.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Gadea

                                                    Recent studies have shown that the same ability to regulate glucose metabolism appears to be beneficial to cancer patients as well.

                                                    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                                  2. Yes, I like bitter melon. I grew up disliking it, but saw the light some time in my teens. I grew up with the Indian variety, but I've enjoyed the Chinese ones on occasion as well.

                                                    I once went out to dinner to a Sichuan place with a bunch of Chinese colleagues, and suggested a bitter melon dish for the table. They were not so enthusiastic.

                                                    1. There is a craft beer made in Okinawa that contains bitter melon, and the beer is called Goya Dry. Apparently, the bitterness of the bitter melon is used in place of part of the hops. It is not really a great beer at all, but I certainly love the concept and what the brewer is trying to do.

                                                      1. Bitter melon is an acquired taste. It is very good for you. I can eat it steamed with a dash of shrimp paste, or stir fried on a bed of rice. Chinese, Philipinos, and East Indians all have varying recipes for it. I love it, the ,ore bitter ther better.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: heybaldy

                                                          I love to carve the seeds out of the middle of bitter melon, then stuff with sautéed ground pork, the bake it at low temperature (325 degrees F) for about an hour. Fabulous with beer.

                                                        2. Bitter melon is great. De-bitter it a little bit by soaking it in salt and turmeric water, then washing and squeezing it. It still turns out bitter, but in a palatable and pleasurable way. Slice it into thin coin slices to cook with other veg, make it into chips, put it in qeema, stuff it with qeema, stuff it with its own peelings...so many things to do with it.

                                                          I used to get bags of a Kerala-made crunchy karela chip when I lived in Dubai. Awesome stuff.

                                                          Hard core fans, especially those who partake of it for health reasons, will actually juice it. That's too extreme for me, but supposedly it is great for detoxing and for controlling blood sugar problems.

                                                          1. I have allergies and figured that eating really spicy chili peppers might help. So I started going to the farmer's market to buy seriously hot ones. While there I noticed some bitter melons and bought them. I ate them one at a time and raw. Really quite tasty (I am twice thirty) even if the seed color freaked me out a bit.

                                                            1. I enjoy bitter melon stir fried with either beef or chicken cut in to bite sized pieces along with black bean and garlic sauce.
                                                              Another favorite way is to stuff bitter melon with a mixture of ground pork and steamed.

                                                              1. I can't do bitter melon. I'm not a big fan of bitter taste. Even when we do stuffed bitter melon, I can't even eat the stuffing since it really absorbs the taste of the bitter melon.

                                                                1. I'm not saying I love all other foods, but if you were to ask me what foods I hate, bitter melon is the ONE thing that would come to mind.

                                                                  I, too, have heard that you enjoy it more as you get older. We'll see in a decade or so.

                                                                  1. I went to the Hong Kong Supermarket on 157 Hester Street
                                                                    in NYC, Chinatown. I found Bitter Melon there, as well
                                                                    as many other Chinese Herbs by the bagful.
                                                                    Whole Foods Supermarket on Union Square in Manhattan,
                                                                    sells Bitter Melon for $4.99 each, when they have it.
                                                                    In the Hong Kong Supermarket, I bought 10 Bitter Melons
                                                                    for under $10.00. I was amazed at the variety of
                                                                    Chinese herbs available and just wished I knew how to use
                                                                    them and what they were for.
                                                                    Some of the names, I wrote down are Polygonum Chinese,
                                                                    Shisandra Chinensis, Liqustrum Lucidum. Some bags had
                                                                    no name. I found Goji Berries for $5.99.
                                                                    Next time I will take photosgraphs, it was an amazing place.

                                                                    1. Nope. Hate the stuff.

                                                                      1. Growing up in Hawaii my father grew all sorts of vegetables including bitter melon. There is a Filipino stewed dish called pinakbet. It starts with sauteed onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes as the base. Bitter melon, and eggplant are always present with okra, yard-long beans, kabocha squash, and chili peppers as variants. Pork and shrimp are common additives to the stew. It can be dry, or soupy. The leaves are used in certain recipes as well. Often times cooked with braised chicken. I LOVE BITTER MELON!

                                                                        1. LOVE bitter gourd, which is what I call bitter melon. With a caveat.

                                                                          When deep fried, I can't get enough of bitter gourd. I tend to snack on about half the bitter gourd by the time I'm done frying them, so I have to make sure I buy enough to feed my craving and everyone else at mealtime. I can eat them by themselves, but the husband and his family like them made into a sambol.

                                                                          I'd had bitter gourd other ways, such as curried and in a soup, and there, not so much. The taste was... Meh. Give it to me deep fried any day and I'm a happy camper. :)

                                                                          Edited to add: Just saw that this was a resurrected thread. Oops.