Bitter Melon Stew
Do you know what this is?
These are called bitter melon or gourd. The are common in some Asian countries and you can find them in most Asian grocery stores. The story of how I came to know of them is interesting. A few years ago, my Indian colleague at work shared her lunch with me and the rest is history. I never shy away from culturally rich food that I can BLEND into other recipes. So, since tasting Sonia's lunch then, I have now made this vegetables over a dozen times in 4 or 5 different recipes.
Before I give you the recipe, first let me tell you a bit about what I have learned about these veggies. They are a gourd plant which means they have melon-like seeds with soft shells. When you cut through each melon it looks like the picture below. You can sort of see the pits of the melons in this below.
Physical characteristics: Good gourds have a very dark green colour with porcupine-like skin. They are firm to touch. The seeds are very soft and crunchy when cooked (I didn't try it raw). If you can chew through almonds nuts, then you can probably chew through these melon seeds....
Moving along there...Plated meal will look like this:
Taste-wise: as the name suggests, these melons are bitter when eaten without compliments. The more ingredients you add during preparation, the less intense the taste. Why not experiment to find out your tolerance level eh?! Apparently, they have a ton of health benefits which I do not have the credentials to narrate. Here are some references I came across from the Bitter-Gourd Project. However, I do know they make amazing meals and I feel properly detoxed after a week long period consumption.
Smell: Oh yes. You can smell the rich chlorophyll as you cut through with a knife. There is nothing off-putting about the smell. If you like the smell of fresh lettuce you will be ok with this one.
Taste: Look out for a subtle sweet after taste. This is my favourite part of the experience. Without any further delay:
Meal paring: As a side dish or as part of a wrap. I really like it with Fish, Tempeh, Soy products and Beans. I prefer fish though. I found drinking water after eating a bitter melon dish enhanced the sweet aftertaste. This is the best part. Try it.
Below is the most recent recipe I made with this vegetable:
Bitter Gourd and Spinach Stew
3 Bitter Gourd Melons (chopped, like photo above).
1 Large Purple onions (sliced)
2 Large Tomatoes (Chopped)
½ pk Frozen spinach
½ Red peppers (Chopped optional)
1 cup Cremini Mushrooms (Chopped)
1 Stalk Green onions
1 tblsp Garlic Chopped
¼ cup Soy sauce
½ tsp Black pepper
½ tsp Oregano
½ tsp Seasoning Salt
½ tsp Curry Powder (or paste)
½ cup Canola Oil
Salt to taste ( necessary)
This made 6 healthy portions.
Sautee onions and garlic in oil. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are thorough cooked. Add mushrooms let cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add curry, seasoning salt, black pepper. Let cook for a few more minutes. Add peppers and bitter melon, oregano and soy sauce. Cover and let cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Constantly stirring as it will burn if left unattended.
The finished product looks like the first image on this post. I served it with two different kinds of fish for my family, Yummy. For this recipe, I didn't use red peppers because I didn't want the dilute the intensity of the sweet after taste. I served it with some par-ripe sweet plantains and yams
Note: I almost always eat my gourd stew with fish because I find the taste compliments the delicate flavour of fish nicely. Try it. Pair it with any protein you like let me know how it turned out.