Most often used in soups and stir-fried dishes, bitter melon was originally deemed a medicine and was supposed to clear the blood. Eating it without blanching to reduce its bitterness one can well understand its reputation, especially with children. Like other edible medicines, it worked its way into the culinary repertory and is now a popular food item. The ones I sampled had just been harvested, fully grown but quite green. Even with blanching, the-meat retains its firm texture. Riper melons are somewhat less bitter and softer in texture.
Wash, then cut the bitter melon in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Cut the melon into fine slices and blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain well on kitchen paper.
Cut the chillies in half and remove the seeds. Finely slice the chillies. Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat and add the oil. When hot, add the salt and the chillies and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Put in the bitter melon, garlic, chicken stock, soy sauce, and sugar. Turn down the heat and simmer the mixture for 3 minutes. Serve at once.
© 1990 Ken Hom. All rights reserved.