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Taming bitter melon 苦瓜炒牛肉

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mungouk

Love these posts!

 

Are these orange ones also Bitter Melon?  Spotted in Suzhou.

 

 

 

苏州 - 1.jpg

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abcdefg

Thanks @mungouk -- I'm not sure. Never seen any quite as yellow as that around here (Kunming.) The young ones (kugua) are pale green and the mature ones are deep green. Found an article just now on Baidu suggesting these in your photo might actually be 金癞瓜 jinlaigua, which the article says are a relative of bitter melon. 

 

https://baike.baidu.com/item/金癞瓜/4915705?fr=aladdin 

 

BTW, those look like beautiful figs in the foreground! 

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mungouk

Yes the figs looked great and the cherries were huge!

 

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Jim

Grew some of our own this year! It's been delicious and there's something makes you feel smug about eating your own produce even if our total crop wouldn't keep us for a month.

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somethingfunny

Just had some 苦瓜皮蛋汤 at a friend's house.  I found it largely inedible.  I could barely stomach the broth itself.  Although, funnily enough, they did mention it would help me with my recent bout of excess heat.

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abcdefg
16 hours ago, Jim said:

Grew some of our own this year! It's been delicious and there's something makes you feel smug about eating your own produce even if our total crop wouldn't keep us for a month.

 

Believe me, @Jim -- I understand the feeling and am immensely jealous. A couple decades ago I lived in Central Texas on a 5-acre lot just outside a small town. Had a fabulous tiny intensive garden that spoiled me for the rest of my life. Dug it real deep, composted it well, never walked near the roots of the plants, and trellised everything that I could. Tomatoes in tall metal cages, fruit protected by netting from birds so it could ripen 80 or 90 percent on the vine. 

 

10 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

Just had some 苦瓜皮蛋汤 at a friend's house.  I found it largely inedible.  I could barely stomach the broth itself.  Although, funnily enough, they did mention it would help me with my recent bout of excess heat.

 

@somethingfunny -- My heat bleeds for you. That is really hard core. Kugua and Thousand Year Eggs in the same dish is bound to be challenging. But you should probable view it as a compliment that they thought you might be able to handle it. It's not something they would have served to anyone except an Old China Hand 中国通 such as yourself. A sign of respect!

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abcdefg

A friend just told me, "Oh, I could never even think about eating kugua/苦瓜/ bitter melon. My taste has always run to bland vegetables." Made me realize there is an alternative way to prepare this dish and I probably should tell you about it.

 

Simple: Use cucumbers in place of the bitter melon. The kind most popular here for that purpose are large and have yellowish skin because they have been picked slightly later than the small ones used raw for salads. They are called 老黄瓜/lao huanggua/"old cucumbers." They have a very pleasant flavor, being slightly more "cucumber-y" than their green siblings. They are still firm; they have not developed soft spots.  

                                                                               

139427787_-small-60.thumb.PNG.a4fe47412b132ec49a93c218d4c976b5.PNG     164038827_2-small40.PNG.9c199a5cebb089697fc641b56ab8d91c.PNG 

 

One cuts the cucumber in half the long way, just like you would do with a bitter melon, and then scoops out the center with a spoon, including the seeds. Cut across into half-moon sections or short strips and proceed with the rest of the process as described above, omitting the salting and blanching steps, because cucumber doesn't require them. 

 

Once last summer I made 苦瓜炒牛肉 for local Chinese friends and polled them in advance. The two ladies loved the bitter flavor and the guy, one ladies husband, couldn't stand it. Made the meat the usual way, but then finished the dish in two batches, using a little over half the meat with bitter melon 苦瓜 and the remainder using 老黄瓜。We were all happy. 

 

 

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Shelley

Interesting use for the humble cucumber. Looks like a good substitute.

 

Reminds of the recipe that called for thinly sliced cucumber, season to taste with salt and pepper and then slide the whole lot gently in to the garbage:):shock: It was a comedian who disliked cucumbers wholeheartedly and thought they were a waste of time.

 

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amytheorangutan

I actually really like stir fried bitter melon with minced pork 🤪 never had it together with 皮蛋, though I really like 皮蛋, I don't think I would like both of them in a soup. I eat my century egg with a dash of soy sauce, sesame oil and chopped spring onions with rice or congee. 

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abcdefg
9 hours ago, amytheorangutan said:

I actually really like stir fried bitter melon with minced pork

 

Amy, have you ever tried bitter melon 苦瓜 with thin-cut beef 牛肉薄片 that has been marinated in oyster sauce? The flavors of the vegetable and the meat compliment each other particularly well. 

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amytheorangutan
10 hours ago, abcdefg said:

bitter melon 苦瓜 with thin-cut beef 牛肉薄片 that has been marinated in oyster sauce?

 I''m definitely giving this a go this week if I can find bitter melon at the Asian grocery 😋

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abcdefg
1 hour ago, amytheorangutan said:

I''m definitely giving this a go this week if I can find bitter melon at the Asian grocery

 

That's terrific, Amy. Let me know how it works out!

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Zeppa

So if I were to try this out - I have got some bitter melons from See Woo in Chinatown - and just for me, I should just make a small portion, no point freezing any because you say it needs to be eaten immediately?

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abcdefg

@Zeppa-- Yes, that's the best approach. When I make it for one (for only myself) I use one medium sized bitter melon and only a handful of meat (150 to 200 grams.) This generally produces enough left overs for a second meal. I just put those into a covered dish and store them in the fridge overnight. Then microwave quickly when ready to use the second day. The idea with the leftovers is to warm them, but not microwave them enough to further cook either the meat or the vegetable. Overcooking the meat would make it tough;  overcooking the vegetable would turn it to mush. 

 

I do not think this is a dish that would freeze well at all. Textures would be adversely affected. 

 

A couple days ago I made it again. This time my melon was younger, as I could tell from the inside since the seeds were not as large and not as red-orange throughout. 

 

  1718328_IMG_5222-60.thumb.jpg.5c3b8aec340e1da918b7f7ec9a9de6f1.jpg   1910023436_IMG_5220-66.thumb.jpg.2a33db53936d724bbc0f6b86ffe13d10.jpg        

 

 

This meant the flesh would not be as bitter as in a more mature melon. So I just salted it for a few minutes after chopping in pieces, but omitted the blanching step. Rinsed the salt off and dried with a paper towel before cooking. If I had been met by lots of large reddish seeds when cutting it open, I would have completed both the salting and the blanching steps as described up above. 

 

My saying in the original post that the dish needed to be eaten immediately is a little misleading. Lots of Chinese food is made 10 or 15 minutes in advance and is set on the dining table, but just sits there until all the other dishes come out of the kitchen. This is the custom when entertaining guests. Most of those dishes are still enjoyable even if they have come to room temperature. 苦瓜炒牛肉 is brought out last because it's much better when hot, straight from the wok. 

 

Hope you enjoy it. Please let us know how it goes. 

 

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amytheorangutan

I gave it a try yesterday. I got bitter melon from Chinatown. I think it might be too old though. It’s wayyyy more bitter than when my mum used to cook at home even though I put salt and blanched it.

 

 

9C32C389-52DA-40FE-A8EE-F51D0DEC10D9.jpeg

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abcdefg

That looks really great, @amytheorangutan

 

4 hours ago, amytheorangutan said:

It’s wayyyy more bitter than when my mum used to cook at home even though I put salt and blanched it.

 

Were the exterior bumps (the "teeth") real big and irregular? Was the color a dark green instead of a light green? When you cut it open, were the seeds large and a dark orange-red color? 

 

Those are three clues that it might have been an old melon, very mature. Those do have a stronger, more bitter flavor.

 

But think of it this way, your 上火 (shanghuo = excess internal heat) is now completely cured! If the melon had been mild, it would have had less medicinal effect. 

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Zeppa

Well, I nearly passed on this because I remembered that although I want to like bitter melon, I don't really. So eventually I made it with much less bitter melon. Here is a picture of the result plus the two bitter melons I didn't use (I blanched three-quarters of the other one too and put it in the fridge for scrambled egg).

I didn't have cassava powder. Assuming that is cassava flour, a website told me alternatives are tapioca starch, arrowroot, coconut flour, almond flour, rice flour and chickpea flour (gram flour?). I used a bit of rice flour. I also used a British tablespoon. I know the size is different from the US one but I had forgotten whether bigger or smaller. It tasted very good. You can't really see the bitter melon in my photo, but it looked like amytheorangutan's ones.

 

IMG_2421.thumb.jpg.3cfaeab8ec0c7aa080762756c69091df.jpg

IMG_2423.jpg

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abcdefg
6 hours ago, Zeppa said:

Well, I nearly passed on this because I remembered that although I want to like bitter melon, I don't really.

 

Well said, Zeppa! I know exactly what you mean because bitter melon occupied the same place in my thinking for a very long time. It's only recently that it has been "promoted" from something of which I just try a couple tentative bites at a big multi-dish restaurant meal with local friends to something that has a solid place in my own summer time kitchen. 

 

 

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oceancalligraphy

Another 苦瓜 dish: 腸粉 with 苦瓜 and 雞絲。It's actually quite good, and has different textures. The one I had, the 苦瓜 was still pretty crunchy.

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