Home | Directory | Contact | FAQ | Recipes | Restaurants | Vietnamese Recipes | 100 Vietnamese Foods | Subscribe

Friday, January 01, 2010

Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup)

Recipe and photos updated from the archives November 13, 2014:

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 6

Several years ago, one of my readers asked for a recipe for Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup). I made Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup) instead since I couldn't eat bitter melon.

I tried it again last April (Ha! As if it's a surprise that it takes me forever to post recipes.) and found out that I still can't eat bitter melon. Too bad for me since I vowed to eat more healthy in the new year and bitter melon has tons of purported health benefits.

As an aside, does anyone else call bitter melon o qua, not the more popular (in online search terms anyway) kho qua? Seems those who call it the latter often eat it for the lunar new year since they want the kho qua, which can be translated to mean "hardship over" in Vietnamese. But since my family calls it o qua, we don't dwell on hardships, nor serve it up for new year's, my mama says. Ha!

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 7

Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup)

For about 4 servings, you'll need:
2 bitter melons
1/2 lb ground pork
1/3 cup Tree/Wood Ear Fungus/Mushroom, soaked
1/2 small bundle of vermicelli noodles, soaked and cut into 2-inch sections
1 shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), or more to taste

Soak about 1/3 cup tree ear mushrooms in water to soften. Vermicelli noodles are often sold in small bundles, you just need half of one. Soak to soften and cut into short segments. These serve to bind the meat together.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 9

Mix 1/2 lb ground pork with 1 minced shallot, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 tblsp fish sauce. Set aside.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 10

Bitter melon growing on my second-youngest uncle's vines back in September 2008.

Canh Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 2

Supermarket bitter melon a little worse for wear. Cut off the ends and slice the bitter melon into 2- or 3-inch segments.

Canh Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 3

Hollow out centers with a spoon or knife. I used a serrated grapefruit spoon for ease. Discard the centers.

Canh Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 4

If you want to lessen the bitterness of bitter melon, you can parboil them for a few minutes. Boil for no more than 5 minutes or else the bitter melon will be too soft to stuff. You'll notice when the color starts turning from bright green. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse in cold water.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 8

By now the meat mixture should be nicely marinated. Stuff the centers of the bitter melons. If there's any extra meat, you can form small meatballs, which will help flavor the soup broth.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 11

Place the stuffed melons into a stock pot with enough water to cover by several inches. Turn the heat on high and when the water boils, turn the heat down to medium or medium-low and let simmer. Skim any scum from the top.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 12

After about 15 to 20 minutes, the bitter melon will be cooked when it softens and turns dark. Taste the broth and add fish sauce or sugar if necessary.

Serve as a soup or spooned over rice.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 13

And a picture of canh o qua with meatballs from the extra meat.

Canh O Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 14


The original photo wasn't as bad as some of my early pictures, but you have to admit that the updated canh o qua looks much more appealing!

Canh Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) 5

Who else made bitter melon soup?
When Christine of Holy Basil made this soup was the first time I heard it called kho qua.

My other canh recipes:
Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup)
Canh Bap Cai Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Cabbage Soup)
Canh Bi Voi Tom (Winter Melon Soup with Shrimp)
Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Pork-Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)
Canh Chua Tom (Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup)
Canh Cu Sen (Vietnamese Lotus Root Soup)
Canh Du Du (Vietnamese Papaya Soup)
Canh Rau Cuu Ky (Vietnamese (Chinese) Boxthorn Soup)
Canh Tao/Rong Bien (Vietnamese Seaweed Soup)

1 year ago today, Pearl Chinese Cuisine (Wedding Banquet) - San Diego.
2 years ago today, frog fallopian tubes, tortoise shell jelly, and knife-cut noodles at Tasty - San Gabriel.
3 years ago today, for those of you with New Year's resolutions to "exercise more," photos of people exercising around Ho Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword Lake) in Hanoi, Vietnam.


  1. Even though my dad grew them for years I still can't eat them. Too bitter for me.

  2. hi wc - ooh, how exciting for me! i love bittermelon (filipinos call it 'ampalaya'). my parents grow it in their garden. it tastes great in pinakbet. this recipe looks pretty good as well and i can't wait to try something new with bittermelon. :)

  3. i've always heard it called o qua. i love love love love this soup and i usually boil it for a few minutes first before stuffing it. love love love love it.

    it is bitter but for some reason i find comfort in the taste and it certainly helps that it's healthy. i like to make the stuffing a bit on the bland side so i can dip in nuoc mam.

  4. No one calls it Muop Dang? That's what my family has always called it. hehe. My folks and all the siblings love bitter melon - whether it's stuffed with ground pork/beef or sliced thin in a simple shrimp broth. It's refreshing and delish!

  5. My mom would sometimes use giò sống instead of ground pork, or mix giò sống with ground pork so that the pork is less dry.

    Do you eat khổ qua xào trứng? I think it's less bitter than canh. :-)

  6. We call it o qua in my household. I'm just like you WC. I will NEVER EVER be able to eat it. No matter how many times I try. It's not just that it's bitter. The bitterness stays on your tastebuds for a long time it feels like to me.

  7. I LOVE this soup! It's my favorite food because it reminds me of living at home before I moved out on my own. Comfort food =). I was thinking of making this tonight too and what do I see? Must be a sign that I have to make this.

    We call it 'kho qua' on new years because of the representation but we call it 'o qua' the rest of the year.

    Anyway, here are my tips to make the bitterness bearable (I take no credit because I was taught by my mom and aunt):
    Make a stock with pork bones (with some fish sauce, of course) before you add the stuffed bitter melon. This sweetens it.
    Garnish the soup with some flat-leaf parsley or cilantro or whatever it's called before serving.
    Enjoy with a dipping plate of fish sauce. (I love eating the bits of meat off pork bones with the fish sauce).

    I find the fish sauce (and hot chili's) helps cut the bitterness.

  8. I've eaten bittermelon but not in soup. I usually eat it in stir fries though. Black bean sauce and spareribs also go quite well with bittermelon (which you can also get at Green Island ;).

  9. The correct name is Khổ qua. SInce its chinese name is "Fu gua". Fu is translated into vietnamese as khổ/đắng, I think mostly because of the sound. I know some people call them Ổ qua but I dont know why. In the north they call them muop dang. Too confusing eh.
    Anyway, I love love love this. I loathed it as a kid but now I love to make it. If you think its too bitter, try blanching, then soak into cold water before you stuff the meat in and cook again.
    You can also thinly slice and fry with egg, its sooo good.

  10. Shirley,
    I keep trying and I still can't eat it either.

    I'm surprised Filipinos don't do these as we have a lot of similar dishes. The bittermelon taste is just too strong for me.

    Yay! A vote for o qua! :) I tell myself it's healthy and I should try and like it, but I just can't.

    That's a new one! Muop to me is just loofah.

    I've tried it sauteed with eggs. My ba noi liked it that way and it was a quick and easy preparation. Still too bitter for me.

    Vote two for o qua! I once tried sauteing the leaves and oooh boy was it bitter! The whole plant is just bitter all over.

    I've tried every single one of those methods and it still is too bitter for me. Haha! I just can't do it!

    I haven't tried black bean and spare ribs but I wonder if the sweetness of that will help cut the bitterness?

    So many names. And then I saw in "Secrets of the Red Lantern" that they call it hu qua. As if we didn't already give it so many names. I've tried both those methods and it's still too bitter for me. I think this is just one of those things that I can't eat.

  11. I still haven't grown up enough yet to like bitter melon. ;)

  12. I made this a few days ago, and it's fantastic. About five thousand times better than what I've had from the Vietnamese deli, which wasn't bad!

    And yes it is bitter, but I still like it. I think it will be one of those foods that I didn't like at first, but came to crave, like kim chee. Or coffee.

  13. Canard,
    Yay! I like hearing your feedback. 5,000 times better. That's quite an endorsement. Kimchee and coffee I liked on first taste. I still can't enjoy bitter melon. But I'm glad you did!

  14. My mother made this for me growing up and the secret for removal of the bitterness is to cook the stuffed melon with a spoon placed in the broth. Just a simple spoon placed in the broth while coming to a broil will remove the bitterness. Try it

  15. Doug,
    Ooh. I'll try that if I attempt this again. I keep wanting to like it because it's good for you, but the bitterness really makes it hard.

  16. Is that a lemon grass stalk in the picture of it cooking? Ia that just for show or needed? Straight water, not stock?
    Thanks - Hung T

  17. Mark,
    Yup, optional. I updated pictures when I made a Hmong version of this soup with lemongrass stalks to flavor the broth. Just water. The pork in the filling will flavor the water and become stock. No need to do it twice.


Thank you for stopping by. I try to respond in a timely manner, but am not always able to do so. If you're awaiting a response, check the post in which the comment is made or click the "Notify me" option.

If you're not a blogger and you'd like to leave a comment, you can do so using your Google/Gmail account.

I welcome questions, discussions, and feedback, but please be mindful that this is my home online. I reserve the right to delete any comment that is anonymous or unknown, rude, promotional, or has a link.

Thank you for reading!