You may have noticed the Asian vegetable bitter melon at the farmers market or even your supermarket, and it’s one that you might want to get to know a little bit better. Bitter melon has been linked to some health benefits, such as glucose lowering benefits, and it also has a rich nutritional profile, which includes vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber, all in a skinny 16 calorie per serving package. This vegetable in the gourd family is used in China, South America and India as a traditional medicine and delicious ingredient in many dishes. Read more about the diabetes benefits of bitter melon in my blog here. I can find bitter melon at my local farmers market, and it’s so fun to experiment with this unique veggie. This cucumber-sized vegetable has a white-green bumpy exterior, but you can eat the peel. Bitter melon gets its name for a good reason, it’s really bitter! But you can do a few things to tame its bitter taste. My farmer at the farmers market tells me the lighter-colored bitter melons have less bitterness, compared with the deeper green-colored ones. In order to remove some of the bitter flavor, blanch sliced bitter melon in boiling, lightly salted water for one minute, and then drop in an ice bath before you use it in dishes. I think bitter melon is especially good in Asian dishes, such as stir-fries, egg rolls, and soups. Follow along with this step-by-step guide for how to cook with bitter melon below.
Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking with Bitter Melon
I put my bitter melon to work in this Chinese-inspired stir-fry, and the subtle bitter flavor gives it just the right kick! Try this easy recipe for Bitter Melon Tofu Stir-Fry below as your first introduction to bitter melon.
Slice bitter melon in half horizontally, scoop out seeds, and slice.
Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to boil, place sliced bitter melon in water, cover, and boil for 1 minute. Drain and place in ice water bath until cool.
Heat sesame oil in a large skillet or wok and add onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and bell pepper, sautéing for 6 minutes.
Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add cooked bitter melon and tofu, and sauté for an additional 2 minutes, until heated through and vegetables are crisp-tender.
While vegetables are cooking, prepare the sauce by combing soy sauce, agave syrup, rice wine vinegar, sriracha sauce, water, and corn starch in a small bowl, mixing until smooth. Pour into skillet, and stir fry until sauce is thickened, about 1-2 minutes
Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Serve over cooked whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, or farro.