Bitter melon is not exactly a melon, but it is indeed very bitter. It has a unique appearance and flavor. It is a climbing vine that has a growing habit of a cucumber plant. However, it is highly regarded for its well-researched and documented medicinal properties. During the summer months, it can be purchased at local farmers’ markets or Asian grocery stores. It is very easy to prepare and can also be made into a healthy tea (which is also very bitter but just as healthy).
There is an old Japanese proverb that says “good medicine tastes bitter”.
Bitter Melon (Momordica charantia) is a member of the squash family and comes in two varieties, the Chinese (smooth skin) and the Indian (bumpy skin). It is very popular in Asia, Africa, India, and Middle Eastern cuisines where it is often prepared stir-fried with pork, sautéed, used in soups, mixed with coconut milk, stuffed with spices, or sipped as a tea. Soaking in saltwater or vinegar prior to cooking removes some of the bitterness.
Health Benefits: Bitter melon is high in vitamins C and A, Folate, Potassium, Zinc, and Iron. For centuries is has long been used by indigenous populations in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines for blood sugar problems, diabetes control, and controlling cholesterol levels. This dish is an acquired taste, but the long-term benefits of this superfood are enormous. Give it a try!
Bitter Melon With Pork
3-5 bitter melons, Chinese or Indian variety
Salt and vinegar
1 lb ground or very thinly sliced pork
(the ratio is supposed to be 3 parts vegetables and 1 part meat)
2 Tbs of oil
A wok is not necessary for this recipe; a large frying pan could be used as well.
Served with steamed rice
Cut bitter melon in half, and with a spoon or your fingers, remove the seeds. Cut each half into slices.
Place cut-up vegetables in a bowl and season generously with salt and vinegar.
Place salted vegetables in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. The salt and vinegar will draw out some of the bitterness.
When ready to cook, remove from the fridge and run under cold water. Dry the vegetables to prevent the oil from splattering when sautéing.
Start with browning your meat. Oil may not be necessary since pork naturally contains fat.
This is how cooked pork should look. Make sure it is cooked well, as pork should never be served undercooked.
Remove meat from your wok or frying pan and set aside in a clean bowl. Add oil if necessary. The pan may still contain little oil from your pork meat.
Sautee the bitter melon for a few minutes, until lightly browned, then cover with a lid so the liquid will cook out of the bitter melon and the vegetables become tender.
Cover the wok or your pan with a lid to cook your vegetables until tender.
The bitter melon is supposed to be tender when cooked. At this point, return the cooked pork back to the bitter melon and mix well.
This is how the finished dish should look once the bitter melon and pork are mixed together. The ratio should be about one part of pork to 3 parts bitter melon. If you are trying this for the first time, add a little teaspoon of honey if necessary. However, if you enjoy this dish on a regular basis for its medicinal benefits, it will start to taste delicious.
Handy Pocket Guide to Asian Vegetables by Wendy Hutton
A Cook’s Guide to Asian Vegetables by Wendy Hutton
The Edible Asian Garden by Rosalind Creasy
Information contained here is not intended to treat or cure any diseases or provide a medical advice.
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