Cooking Bitter Melon

Preparation
Cut Bitter Melon in half and discard the seeds and fibrous core. To reduce the bitterness, blanch it in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. This vegetable is not typically peeled and the skin is edible. The seeds are also edible, though they are very hard. They are included in some recipes. Bitter melon is commonly stuffed, curried or pickled, though it can be prepared in all kinds of ways and is suitable for any dish from drinks to dessert. It is often used stir-frys and soups and may be steamed. It’s flavor combines well with other strong flavors or ingredients such as garlic, chili peppers, coconut milk, and fermented balck beans.

Q: This melon is so bitter! How can I reduce its strong bitter flavor?

A: Bitter Melon is a challenging culinary item, to be sure. But while challenging, it is not impossible to find exciting ways to incorporate it into various cuisine styles. Here are some hints for preparing the gourd to reduce its bitter flavor:

1. Like eggplant, Bitter Melon can be salted and rested to remove the bitterness from its flesh. Core the melon, dust it generously with salt and let it rest for 10 minutes. Rinse the slices and prepare as you wish.

2. Another way to reduce the bitter melon’s strong flavor is by blanching. You do this by coring it, slicing, and boiling in a pan of lightly salted water. After 1 minute, remove and drop in ice water. Blanching will not only remove some of the bitterness; it will also brighten the beautiful green color!

3. One more hint: Lightly pickling the bitter melon also helps to remove the strong flavor. For 1 bitter melon: Bring 1 cup of white vinegar to a boil. Add 2 Tblsp. Sugar, 2 tsp. Salt, and 1 tsp Turmeric. Bring all to a boil and add bitter melon slices. Boil for 2 minutes, remove, drain and cool. Prepare as you wish.

Another suggestion when developing your own recipe is to consider is that bitter melon is an excellent ingredient to use with strong flavors: spices, rich sauces, fermented flavors. With spicy foods, bitter melon acts as a coolant, with rich sauces such as coconut milk and curry, hummus, and even in ice cream, the flavor balances the natural oils in these other ingredients acting as a palette cleanser.

Some popular ways of cooking it is to stuff the melon with spiced meats and serve with a coconut curry sauce, sauté it with onion, red pepper and prepare with scrambled eggs or in an omelet, or as a stir fry with fermented black beans and chicken.