The Chinese and their Greens (Part 4/12)
The bitter melon, pronounced 'fu gwaa' or 'leong gwaa', is (as you have probably guessed) bitter but it is more common on home dining tables than you many think. For those who are older or have finally acquired a taste for this extremely nutritious melon, you will find it almost addictive. The 'warty', lumpy melon is best when the bumps are long, big and wide and the colour is light green as opposed to the deep green. My strictly vegetarian godmother taught me this fail-free method of selecting and it has proven time and time again that choosing them this way will result in a much milder, tender tasting bitter melon.
When preparing this wonderful vegetable, remember to remove all the seeds and spongy lining by scraping the insides with a metal spoon. Blanching the sliced melon can remove some of the bitterness but I wouldn't recommend it. Why wash away all the good stuff? If you want to keep the bitter melon for longer, remove the seeds before storing them in the fridge as they hasten the ripening process. Bitter melon is great to braise, cook in 'long-boil' soups, stir-fry or stuff.
This recipe is a comforting one for many local families and is an absolute cinch to whip up. I started the wok up with some matchstick ginger in vegetable oil. Then I stir-fried some beef slices (pre-marinated in salt, sugar, cornstarch, light soy sauce and vegetable oil) with my bitter melon slices. No blanching needed, just seasoned with a big dollop of black bean garlic sauce and a couple of pinches of sugar for balance and flavour.
This is adventure, taste, class and health all rolled up into a meal that you will love - one I definitely will be demonstrating in my upcoming 2017 summer cooking demos starting July 4th!
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