Bitter melon has always played a crucial role in my diet from a young age to this date. It’s is a gourd-like vegetable plant with green wrinkly skin that is highly nutritious, but tastes really bitter.
We call it “Ampalaya” in the Philippines, but it’s also known as: bitter gourd, bitter squash, karela and other names. This nutritious vegetable is widely grown and used in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Filipinos love to use bitter melon before it is ripe, when the texture is slightly firm and the skin is green with hints of yellow, which means extra bitterness! We also enjoy the leaves of the bitter melon when added to sauté or soup dishes. Bitter melon and okra are my favourite vegetables.
Bitter melon is used as an ingredient in cooking and also in many medicinal remedies. In Asia it is used to treat stomach problems like ulcers and constipation, gout and also to reduce the blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. Bitter melons contain a chemical that acts like insulin. It can also work for people with skin conditions like eczema, rashes when applied topically.
I try to make a dish with bitter melon for my family every couple of weeks. By now they have gotten used to the bitterness and they love it!
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 shallots or large size onions, diced
- 2 tbsp. of olive oil or coconut oil
- ½ cup of water
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 3 medium size bitter melon, peeled, cored and sliced thin
- 2 small tomatoes, diced or 6 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. of fish sauce
- salt and ground pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste, optional
- ¼ cup of cilantro, chopped
- In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onions in hot oil until the garlic is light brown.
- Add the ground pork until it's thoroughly cooked.
- Add the sliced bitter melon, tomato paste and water, cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bitter melon is slightly tender.
- Add the fish sauce, salt, ground pepper and diced tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add and mix the cilantro.
- Serve while still hot - typically with rice.
- Wash the bitter melon. Cut both ends and in half lengthwise.
- Remove the seeds using a small spoon.
- Cut them diagonally into thin slices, about ¼ inch or thinner if you can.
- Place the bitter melon in a big bowl with lukewarm water, add a teaspoon of salt.
- Let it sit for at least 5 minutes or more to remove some of the bitterness.
- Drain the water. Using your hands, squeeze the juice out of the bitter melons as much as possible.
For vegetarian with eggs:
1. 6 eggs, slightly beaten
2. Add the beaten eggs to the bitter melon a few minutes before it's completely done.
3. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture egg is firm. Stir well.