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Apr 16, 2008 09:08 PM

Bitter melon ... Wow that is rough !

My goodness. Bitter melon certainly remains true to its name. This vegetable is bitter beyond words. If I've eaten bitter melon before in Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani dishes, I certainly wasn't aware of it, or it went completely undetected.

Are there any recipes available out there that mask the bitterness a bit? TIA.

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  1. Was it bitter melon or bitter gourd? I love the latter and would be willing to extoll!!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Sam: I'll bite - what's the difference between melon & gourd? The picture provided by Cheese Boy is what I've seen labeled "Indian bitter melon" in our stores. Thx for the education.

      I personally don't eat this, but my parents used to make stuffed and steamed, with or without black bean sauce. More commonly now, Mom will make a tea of it, boiling chunks of it (with or without ginger slices which will mitigate the bitter flavor for novices) and drink the tea (helps her blood sugar). Also have seen Japanese tea bags of bitter melon with black bean.

      And lastly was at a restaurant recently that diced it and mixed it in with vermicelli in a scrambled egg-type dish. It wasn't unbearably bitter like this, but I'd never seen vermicelli in eggs like that before.

      1. re: smalt

        Maybe its the same? I just never heard of it called a "melon". "Ampalaya" in the Philippines. I leaned the way I do it in Vietnam: cut in half cross-wise, remove the seeds and pulp witha table knife. Stuff with a mix of ground pork, fish sauce, chopped green onion, chiles, ginger, and garlic. Steam. Cut into smaller sections when ready andserve with a soy, lime juice, chile, fish sauce dipping sauce. Delicious!

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          I always used amalaya and bittermelon interchangeably. I'd never heard it called a gourd before.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              It could rightly be renamed to "puckerin' pepo".

        2. re: smalt

          the super-spiky one I've seen as kerala in indian groceries, the smoother variety (but still with the deep channels on the outside, fluffy pith inside surrounding red seeds) is more the asian variety, bitter melon or "ku-gua"

      2. Did you have Chinese bitter melon? Because I thought that the Indian bitter melon was a lot more bitter.

        The bitterness can be tempered with heavier, richer dishes. And some sugar offsets the bitterness as well.

        1. The reason to eat bitter melon IS for the bitterness.

          I mean, seriously, do you complain that dark chocolate is too bitter? Or that lemons are too tart?

          But in all seriousness it is an acquired taste to some extent. I think if you eat enough of it you'll come to appreciate the bitterness.

          6 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            I've eaten a lot of it, but will not go out of my way to prepare it or eat it. Unless Mom is preparing it (cut into 2-3" tubes, stuffed with a pork, rice vermicelli, pepper, etc; boiled in broth).

            It's supposed be good for one's health, possibly as an astringent to detoxify (similarly to asparagus?).

            1. re: Caralien

              i just go with the rule that if its kinda bitter, its probably good for you!

              1. re: bigjeff

                Some bitter tasting things are poisonous, while blueberries are very good for you, and not bitter unless under ripe!

                1. re: Caralien

                  ya it sorta goes against nature's intentions for fruits and berries against natural predators but think chinese herbal remedies and such! a fine line between poison and medicine sometimes.

                  1. re: bigjeff

                    things that taste good like fat and butter and cheese are bad for you while things that taste bad like medicine and bitter melon are good for you why nature whyy

                    1. re: pdpredtide

                      Fat and cheese are bad for me? I keep misplacing that memo.

          2. Ok, the bitterness is what is great in bitter melon. But it is something you will learn to love but until then here is a trick I have used to get our sons use to the taste.

            First you cut the butter melon in half and remove the seeds.Then after washing and remove everything from the center you slice the bitter melon into thin half moons. The boil some water and add some chicken bullion in the water until it has dissolved.

            Then quickly blanch the bitter melon slices and quickly remove and cool off in ice water.

            After that you can stir fry the melon, remember you have remove the bitterness but you have also remove some of the benefits of the bitter melon. But then again you have to eat to get anything form it.

            Also you can add some sugar to cover the bitterness to the recipe.

            God if my Father was still alive he would tell me he would turn over in his grave, which he may be doing now.

            3 Replies
            1. re: yimster

              This may be a dumb question: it's peeled, right?

              1. re: suse

                No dumb questions ever. No it is not peeled. I have never seem it served peeled. Not sure why but that is how it is done. That is for the Chinese ones not sure of the other ones.

              2. I've included an image with this reply that *perfectly* resembles the vegetable I'm referring to, right down to the multiple pronounced raised nubs. These melons weren't the smoother kind. If those are Asian, these were likely Indian.

                As with many urban Bangladeshi and Pakistani stores, there are no signs (or prices) on most of the produce they sell. I saw these (see image below), liked them very much, and opted to buy them at a ridiculously high $2.50/lb. They were awesome looking, -- so fresh -- so vibrant -- so green !! And yes, so bitter !! Before cooking them, we salted them b/c that was supposed to remove *some* of the bitterness. I don't think that worked too well. I think the chicken bouillon might be something better to experiment with. Does anyone have any comment(s) they can share after seeing the image here? Thank you for all the replies so far. To be honest, this vegetable makes an excellent side dish.

                11 Replies
                1. re: Cheese Boy

                  Ahah! Bitter gourd. Love the stuff. Cut in half cross-wise; remove seeds and pulp with a dinner knife; stuff with your favorite ground pork & beef + other stuff + egg mix; steam! Cut in half inch "coins". Serve with dipping sauce. Learned this by eating in a wooden, dirt floor place in Canh Tho Province in Vietnam.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Yes, I like it this way, or poach the stuffed rounds in a good chicken or beef stock and eat as a soup. I like lots of white or black pepper, and some fish sauce in the stuffing.

                    Also like it stir-fried with fermented black beans, garlic, oyster sauce, pork or beef. Blanch first to cut the bitter. The strong taste fits well with the bitter.

                    1. re: torty

                      Yes, I use pork, beef, egg, fish sauce, chilies, ginger, green and red onion, maybe a touch of oyster sauce, toasted and ground uncooked rice, cilantro, and mint. Kind of like laap steamed in the bitter gourd halves.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sam, I like using a fish paste (made by finely mince fish and shrimp to form a paste) and have a nice piece of white fish fillet on the bottom of the bitter melon top with the fish and shrimp paste.

                        I use a little fish sauce, some stock made from shaved dried dashi, salt, white pepper, white part of the green onion or shallots and some Chinese parsley for color. Top off by some black bean garlic sauce.

                        The bitterness is really off set by the "blandness" of the fish.

                        In fact I use a meat stuffing at the same time. Cooked a longer since the cooking times are not same.

                        Then I do a vegetable stir fry.

                        So that the presentation is four pieces of stuffed bitter melon (two of each) forming a circle with the vegetable stir in the center. A one dish meal.

                        Next time I made this I will try to remember to take a picture and hopefully I can post it.

                        1. re: yimster

                          yimster, GAACK!!...that sounds so good!! I understand the ingredients but don't quite understand the process. I have all the ingredients you mention and will try it unaided tomorrow unless you provide a few more detaills.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Ok, Sam I will try to answer you questions. But I did not learn to cook by recipe rather by look, smell, feel and taste.

                            What it that fish and seafood cooks quicker than red meat. So the cooking time is differ for meat vs fish.

                            So for the bitter melon which has the fish I blanch the bitter in chicken bullion stock prior to adding the fish combination. That the melon will be cooked while the fish is not over done.

                            After the half melon is cooled a little you lay a strip of white fish on the bottom of the melon and top off the melon with the fish paste mixture. Then you steam it until the fish paste mixture is done.

                            The meat filled melon you already know how.

                            The stir fry vegetables are cooked while you are steaming the melons.

                            Place the stir fry vegetables in the center of the platter and place the four boats in a circle around the vegetables.

                            My favorite vegetables to use in this dish is blanch in Chicken broth Chinese mustard greens top with a shitake mustards with oyster sauce.

                            A bean bean garlic sauce over the bitter melon boats is nice. Petty simple and the look and presentation is great.

                            For those on the Bay Area board, I do eat vegetables ok.
                            I will cook this dish soon and for once I will try to write down a recipe and take a picture.

                            Sam I will check this trend tomorrow morning to see if you have any questions.

                            Sorry I not great a writing recipes.

                            1. re: yimster

                              Thank you, yimster! I don't cook with recipes either. I learned my stuffed bitter gourd by eating it in a no-name Vietnamese place in the Delta! What you just posted is very clear to me. If you post phiotos, I hope I won't be too surprised. Thank you again.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Great, I hope you will post the photo, since I will be at least a few weeks until I cook this. I have not seen bitter melons that are good enough to spend the time to do so now.

                                Besides I have to wait until my throwdown with Oakjoan at our local chow picnic.

                                I just cooking away to keep sharp.

                          2. re: yimster

                            om goodness. You make this sound so delicious, I don't have any bitter melons, but I've plenty of larger zucchini and other squash that look different ( bumpy like) and I bet they'd be good treated this way too.

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              Other squashes will work but I love the balance of bitter and the sweetness of fish.

                              Well bitter melon is something I only recently learn to like. In the past I used a Chinese squash called "hairy" melon. Do not know the English name. I normally make "boats" but you can do rings. I wish it cool off so I can cook again.

                              1. re: yimster

                                Yimster - I use the hairy melon ("dit gwa") in soups, but yes, have had it steamed/stuffed also.