You’ll see this ‘fruit’ in the chilled section at Asian shops. They look like pale green bumpy cucumbers.
Bitter melon is a valuable part of asian cooking because it offers up the bitter flavour that complements the other tastes in Asian cooking eg sweet, sour, salty and hot. However, it is an acquired taste.
It is reputed in Asian medicine to have medicinal properties including purifying the blood. It may cause side effects including hypoglycemia in people who are vulnerable, so anyone who is concerned about blood sugar levels should take advice before eating it.
Other uses for Bitter Melon
You also find bitter melon tea and pickled bitter melon which can be served with Chinese food.
How to cook Bitter Melon
Wash bitter melon well before you cook it. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and any soft or stringy bits but don’t peel it. Cut into strips and boil for 5 minutes to soften before adding it to a stir-fry. It is usually served with strong flavours which balance out its bitterness, for example, beef in black bean sauce. Make sure to balance the dish with something sweet.
If you want to know more about Asian ingredients, you should read Bruce Cost’s excellent book Asian Ingredients – A Guide to the Foodstuffs of China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.