For the serious veggie lovers: Bitter melon with Shiitake mushroom stir-fry

Vegetable Recipes

Is it possible to be bitter and good at the same time? In the case of bitter melon, it is. Just as the name implies, bitter melon…is… bitter. But with the right seasonings/spices this vegetable can make a delicious dish.

Growing up, stir-fry bitter melon would often show up as a side dish on my family’s dinning table. My mom would cook the vegetable with garlic, shallots, and chili peppers. Whenever the dish appeared, I would have a bite and convince myself that it would be less bitter from the last time I tried it. Of course, it was never the case. Each time it showed up on the table, I would always have a bite. I guess after years of “having a bite” of it, I grew to like this dish.

It had been years since the last time I had stir-fry bitter melon. At a recent trip to the market, I saw one bitter melon left on its section on the vegetable rack. I took it home and followed my mom’s recipe. But I also added my own twist to the dish: I added two cups of Shiitake mushrooms and a little bit of light soy sauce.  The mushrooms definitely offered a sweet flavor and meaty texture to stir-fry. Both bitter melon and mushrooms absorbed the mix of garlic, shallots, chili peppers, and light soy sauce really well.  Here’s how I did the stir-fry:

To prepare:

  • Halve one bitter melon. Remove the core with a small knife (the most bitter part)
  • Slice them up into thin cuts
  • Fill up a medium bowl with ¼ of water and two tablespoons of salt
  • Soak the bitter melon cuts for an hour or so. The salt water helps get rid of the bitterness of the melon.

After an hour/two:

  • Rinse the bitter melon from the salt water, set aside. (Please rinse them really well. Otherwise they’d be too salty.
  • Chop three garlic, two shallots, and two Thai peppers
  • Heat up a medium pan on the stove
  • Add one tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
  • Add the garlic, shallots, and peppers and let them cook in the pan for two minutes
  • Add one teaspoon of light soy sauce
  • Add the rinsed bitter melon to the pan
  • Add the stemmed and chopped Shiitake mushroom
  • Cover the pan with a lid and let everything cooks for 5-8 minutes (until the bitter melon cuts and mushrooms are soft)
  • Set aside and let it sit in the pan for a few minutes (10-15) to give some time for the dish to absorb all of the seasonings and flavors
  • Serve with jasmine rice

A great side dish to accompany my spicy squid (next blog entry).

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