Bitter melon aka foo gwa is a gourd that was definitely not part of my usual diet. The first time I accidentally had it I thought someone was playing a nasty joke, who would put such a foul tasting... fruit, vegetable, thing... into my meal. I then vowed I would never eat bitter melon ever again - EVER.
It's true, all of the things out there that don't taste great usually are very good for you. Bitter melon has been researched in relationship to diabetes, it has been shown to help diabetics increase insulin. The effects of bitter melon on cancer cells is also being looked into, as it is hypothesized that the bitter gourd may help to kill certain types of cancerous cells and prevent them from multiplying.
The most common thing about bitter melon is that it is cooling, so for individuals with yeet hay (hotness), it will help cool your body. Yeet hay (熱氣) may come from eating too much oily/fried foods, the "symptoms" may be having a break out or having kanker sores inside of your mouth - or if you just feel hot, bloated.
So I broke that promise I made to myself all those years ago, I started eating bitter melon, I started tolerating it, then I started liking it, and subsequently now I crave it. This is my favorite way of preparing bitter melon. I love this recipe so much because I find that the bitter melon's flavor contrasts with the pork, I know this sounds crazy but I swear when I eat it I feel like the pork is almost sweet... I love this soup. Serve this with a side of white rice and a steamed egg, that's an awesome dinner.
Where to buy these ingredients?
Bitter melon (choose long, light green, smooth one) should cost you about $6 for one at the wet market. Ground pork is cheapest bought at Wellcome for $16 for about 360g. Fish sauce can be purchased anywhere (I prefer the Vietnamese brands to Thai). Bean thread noodles I purchase dried at Wellcome in small packages for about $5. Wood eat mushrooms you can purchase in the dried food section of the grocery store or you can venture into a Chinese dried food shop, I will usually purchase about $10 worth of wood eat mushrooms for this recipe.
Canh Kho Qua Bitter Melon Soup (via The Ravenous Couple)
Two medium length 8-12 inch bitter melons
6 cups of water or chicken broth
1 green onion, thinly chopped
Bunch of cilantro, thinly chopped
1 peeled shallot
1/2 lb ground pork
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 minced shallots or small onion, diced
1/2 cup bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water about 10 min, drain and cut in 2-3 inch length
1/4 cup wood ear mushrooms, soaked in warm water about 10 min, drain and cut thinly
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the pork, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, salt, shallots, wood ear mushrooms, bean thread noodles and mix well. Cover and set aside.
Blanching is an optional technique to reduce a bit of the bitterness. Quickly blanch the entire bitter melon in boiling water for about 1 minute--the color will turn a dark green. Remove and allow to cool. When cool to the touch, slice melons cross wise into 1 to 1.5 inch pieces. Using a table spoon or knife, drive it between the green outer flesh and the center white pith. Hold the bitter melon in one hand and spoon/knife in other, and slowly core out the pith and seeds with a circular motion.
Add the peeled shallot to the water/stock and bring to boil. In the meantime, stuff the bitter melons with the pork stuffing. When water/stock is boiling add the stuffed bitter melons and cover reducing heat to low, cook for about 15 minutes or until the center of the pork is done. Season with some salt to taste. Transfer to soup bowl and garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro.