Every few years, I attempt to eat Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) again, hoping that this time, it'll grow on me. And every other time, the bitterness of bitter melon is just too much, but I keep trying because it's pretty much the only Vietnamese food that I can't eat.
So I thought I'd try to lessen the bitterness. Not remove it completely, but at least tone down it enough that I can eat it. I figured if I parboiled the bitter melon and dumped the bitter brew before making it into soup, that might reduce the bitterness a little.
I turned to my Wandering Chopsticks Facebook page to ask if any of my readers had tried that and whether it worked and received another tip to salt it as well. So here you go, two ways to lessen the bitterness of bitter melon.
The first method of parboiling bitter melon is best used if you're making bitter melon soup.
Cut the bitter melon into sections and scoop out the insides with a spoon. I like using a serrated grapefruit spoon for ease.
Set a pot of water to boil while you finish cleaning sections of bitter melon.
When the water boils, add the bitter melon and turn the heat down to medium. Let it parboil for no more than 5 minutes, or slightly less if you can handle the bitterness. Pour into a colander to drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. At the 5-minute mark, the bitter melon had just started to change color and was getting a little too soft to stuff.
The second method comes from Wandering Chopsticks reader Gabriel Ocasio who suggested salting bitter melon to reduce its bitterness. This method is best if you intend to stir-fry the bitter melon. You can also parboil the bitter melon slices too if you don't want to salt them.
Slice the bitter melon in half length-wise and scrape out the insides. Then thinly slice.
Liberally salt the bitter melon. I used kosher salt so you can see the grains more easily. Mix thoroughly and let rest for about an hour.
Then thoroughly rinse the bitter melon. Now, you can use it in such dishes as O/Kho Qua Xao Trung (Vietnamese Stir-Fried Bitter Melon with Eggs) or Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce.
Both methods worked really well. There was still a slight hint of bitterness. The bitter melon flavor was still there, only the overwhelming bitterness was much reduced. The reduced bitterness of the bitter melon meant that I could even eat a four-course bitter melon dinner, which I could have never imagined doing so before.
Other cooking tips can be found in Peek in My Kitchen.
Some bitter melon recipes:
Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup)
Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Ground Pork and Black Bean Sauce
Dib Iab Ntim Nqaij Hau Ua Kua (Hmong Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup with Ground Pork, Cilantro, and Scallions)
Vegetarian Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Tofu and Eggs)
O/Kho Qua Xao Trung (Vietnamese Stir-Fried Bitter Melon with Eggs)
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