Today, we are going to make something special – bitter melon. Have you ever wondered what it is and how to cook it when you see it at the Asian grocery stores? So, I am going to share the easiest recipe that you can cook it –Stir Fry Bitter Melon With Garlic (蒜蓉炒苦瓜)
The name pretty much describes how it’s going to taste. I am very tolerant and I enjoy bitter vegetables; maybe I am just weird. Please tell me that I am not the only one LOL!
Cut it in half, then quarter it. The white inside part has a spongy texture; we want to remove it completely because it is the most bitter part. Use a rounded teaspoon to scrape the last bits of the white part.
Here is a fun fact. If you leave the bitter melon to grow until the seeds are ripe, the spongy part will change to a bright red color and the texture becomes tender. My grand-mom used to grow lots of bitter melon. I have tasted the ripe ones before and it is sweet like a fruit.
Cut the bitter melon with a 45-degree angle into 1/3 of an inch thick slices.
Season it with 1 tsp of salt. Rub for a minute or 2. The salt will draw out some moisture and reduce the bitter taste. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
Cut some red, dried chilies open to remove the seeds.
Roughly dice some fresh red chilies
Press 5 cloves of garlic through a garlic presser.
Optionally, prepare 1 tsp of sichuan peppercorns.
Now we can go back and check out the bitter melon. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Look how much liquid we got out. Discard that.
We will rinse the bitter melon with cold running water several times. The cells will start absorbing some water and it will become crunchy again. Drain it but doesn’t need to be thorough. A little bit of excess water will make sure the garlic doesn’t burn as fast when stir-frying.
Add 1-2 tbsp of oil to the wok along with the Sichuan peppercorns. Turn the heat to low. As the temperature climbs up slowly, the oil will be seasoned with the peppercorn flavor.
Once you see the color is getting dark, you can take the peppercorns out and discard them. Turn the heat to medium. Add in the bitter melon, dried chili, fresh chili, and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.
We did season the bitter melon with salt but we also rinsed it, so we don’t know how much sodium is left in there. You should give it a taste and then add the salt to adjust the flavor. I made this many times. So I know exactly that a little bit less than a tsp will be perfect. Also, be generous with the salt amount especially if you have never tried bitter melon before because the salt will suppress a little bit of the bitter taste. Give it a final stir and you are done.
You can serve this as side dish. Just so you know, even though we have done everything we can to cut down the bitter element, it will still taste a little bitter but in a pleasant way. I love the favor. I can just eat all these with some white rice. The funny thing is when I was a little kid, I hated it. My parents always teach me by saying 吃得苦中苦，方为人上人, which means – only those who endure the most, become the highest. Over time, I just learned how to enjoy it.