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Stuffed bitter melon 酿苦瓜

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Bitter melon is still everywhere you look in the market even though autumn will be here soon. Still fresh, cheap and plentiful. Realizing that kugua/bitter melon 苦瓜 won't be around too much longer, I couldn't resist using some again today. Made a recipe that arrived in Yunnan via Hakka immigrants 客家人 from Fujian Province on the east coast. The melon retains a mildly bitter flavor 微苦 which I find pleasant though I realize not everyone will. Here's how to make it at home if you would like a change of pace from your usual fare. 

 

Buy one kugua melon 苦瓜。If you don't like kugua, you can make this with zucchini 小瓜 or large cucumber 黄瓜。Look for a kugua with medium sized "bumps" 牙齿 ("teeth") and a pale green color. It should be firm without soft spots or large blemishes. Mine cost 1 Yuan this morning. What a fine bargain! (Please click the photos to enlarge them.)

 

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 Pick up a few medium-sized spring onion 大葱,a couple of carrots 胡萝卜, and a handful of either wood-ear mushrooms 黑木耳 or xianggu (shitake) mushrooms 香菇。

 

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Next head for "pork row." My favorite pork is from a butcher who promotes semi-wild mountain pigs with black skin, known as 黑猪。The are "free-range" pigs 野跑猪, not raised in pens and the meat has more flavor with less intramuscular marbling. I asked them to grind me a piece of lean shoulder along with about 25 percent fat, just measured by eye. Sometimes I buy a large chunk and mince it myself at home, but today I didn't want that additional step. So I just bought 肉末, custom ground. 

 

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Here's a look at the main ingredients and another picture after being chopped fine 切碎。Garlic and ginger are on the bottom, 蒜姜末 along with the spring onion 葱花。Carrot and wood ear mushrooms 木耳 on top. 

 

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I used about 200 grams of meat, froze the rest for another day. Put it on my heavy tree-trunk chopping block and cut it one way and then another with a heavy cleaver 菜刀。Folded it in on top of itself and repeated the process several times. The goal was for the meat to be cut more finely than when it came from the butcher's machine. Next in chopped in the minced ginger and garlic, using the same type of process. 

 

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Wash the kugua and slice it into rounds, each piece about an inch and a half tall. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and white pith 去籽、去瓤。  That's where most of the "bitter" resides.  

 

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Put the meat in a mixing bowl and add a tablespoon of corn starch, a half teaspoon of salt, a half teaspoon of sugar, and one small to medium egg 液蛋。(If your egg is a large or jumbo one, just use its white 蛋白 and save the yellow for something else.) add a couple tablespoons of finely chopped carrot and finely cut mushroom. Mix this all together with a wooden spoon or chopsticks, moving in only one direction, clockwise or counterclockwise doesn't matter. 搅拌均匀。This motion makes the mixture get stiff and sticky, the better to use as a stuffing. 

 

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Blanch 焯 the cut kugua in your wok for about one minute using lightly salted water. Scoop it out, cool it quickly by dunking it in cold water and set aside. Stuff the meat filling into the kugua sections 将肉馅塞入苦瓜段中。

 

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Dry the wok and add a tablespoon or so of cooking oil after it gets hot again. Put in the stuffed kugua sections and turn the heat down to medium. Let them brown on one side 煎 then flip them over so the other side can brown too. Now add enough water to reach about half-way up the kugua sections, but not enough that you cover them. Put in a dash of soy sauce and another of oyster sauce. Stir these around. Reduce the heat to a simmer. After about 10 minutes (uncovered) most of the liquid will be gone and they will be done. Add a couple tablespoons of corn starch slurry 水淀粉 to produce a simple gravy. 

 


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Plate it up. Spoon on the luscious pan gravy. Serve warm. Goes well with steamed rice and a bowl of plain leafy green vegetable soup 青菜汤。

 

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This is not General Tso's Chicken or Sweet and Sour Pork. It will never be a big hit on Main Street, Small Town, USA. But if you would like to venture a bit beyond the safe confines of Panda Express, this is one good way to do it.  

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Alex_Hart

I imagine tofu would work fairly well as a meat alternative in this recipe? I've had something similar with lotus root (kind of like a lotus root hamburger) and they used tofu instead. I love 苦瓜 but have never tried to cook it except in the typical stir-fry method. Thanks for the idea!

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Thanks @Alex_Hart -- I'm not sure how well tofu would work as the stuffing. Perhaps smoked tofu 豆腐干 plus some stronger flavored mushrooms (in place of 香菇 or 木耳) chopped together. Or maybe a softer tofu blended with plenty of herbs and spices to make something akin to an herbed Neufchatel or a Boursin. 

 

BTW, it's possible to make this recipe just by steaming it. 蒸酿苦瓜。It's a little easier and I sometimes do it that way. Today I used the "煎 plus 卤" approach because it looks better and has those nice, crusty ends on the stuffed melon sections. But steaming it alone might be better if one were using tofu instead of meat; I think it holds together better with that approach. 

 

On 9/5/2018 at 8:12 AM, Alex_Hart said:

I love 苦瓜 but have never tried to cook it except in the typical stir-fry method.

 

Same here, I have been casting about for other ways to prepare it since it is so delicious, inexpensive and abundant now.  

 

------------------------------------------ 

 

请问 -- Are you back from your summer holiday now? 

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