Stir-Fried Bitter Melon With A Hint Of Spice: A Classic Chinese Recipe

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Bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, is a unique vegetable prized in many Asian cuisines for its health benefits and interesting flavor profile. While the name might be a deterrent, its slightly bitter taste can be balanced beautifully in stir-fries, adding a depth of character to the dish. This recipe for Chinese-style bitter melon stir-fry is a simple and delicious way to enjoy this versatile vegetable.


Bitter Melon with Eggs
Bitter Melon with Eggs

1 large bitter melon (around 500g)

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, julienned
  • 1 red chili pepper, sliced (optional)
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced pork belly (or other protein of choice)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Chopped scallions, for garnish

  • Instructions:

    1. Prepare the Bitter Melon: Wash the bitter melon thoroughly and cut it in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scrape out the white flesh and seeds. Slice the bitter melon into thin half-moons. To further reduce the bitterness, you can blanch the bitter melon slices in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

    2. Marinate the Protein (Optional): If using pork belly, slice it thinly. In a bowl, marinate the pork with 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tsp Shaoxing wine, and a pinch of pepper for 10 minutes.

    3. Stir-Fry: Heat oil in a wok or large pan over high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili pepper (if using) and stir-fry for 30 seconds until fragrant.

    4. Add Meat (Optional): If using marinated pork, add it to the pan and stir-fry until browned and cooked through. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

    5. Cook the Bitter Melon: Add the bitter melon slices to the pan and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened.

    6. Add Bell Pepper: Add the red bell pepper slices and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.

    7. Season and Simmer: Pour in the remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly.

    8. Finish and Serve: If using the previously cooked pork, return it to the pan and stir to combine with the vegetables and sauce. Garnish with chopped scallions and serve hot over rice.

    Nutrition Facts (per serving):

    Calories: Approximately 300 (may vary depending on ingredients)

  • Fat: 15g
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Protein: 20g
  • Sodium: 500mg (depending on soy sauce content)

  • Note: These are approximate values and can vary depending on the specific ingredients you use.


    This bitter melon stir-fry is a healthy and flavorful way to enjoy this unique vegetable. The bitterness of the melon is balanced beautifully by the savory sauce and the sweetness of the bell peppers. It’s a great addition to any Asian-inspired meal.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Can I substitute the bitter melon with another vegetable?

    Yes, you can substitute the bitter melon with other vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, or green beans. However, these vegetables won’t have the same bitter taste, so you may need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.

    2. How can I further reduce the bitterness of the bitter melon?

    Soaking the sliced bitter melon in salt water for 30 minutes before cooking can help reduce some of the bitterness. You can also blanch it for a longer time (around 5 minutes).

    3. What are some other ways to cook bitter melon?

    Bitter melon can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. You can stuff it with meat and vegetables, add it to soups and stews, or even pickle it.

    4. What are the health benefits of bitter melon?

    Bitter melon is known for its various health benefits. It’s a good source of vitamins and minerals, and it may also have anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-lowering properties. However, it’s important to consult with your doctor before consuming bitter melon in large quantities, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    5. Where can I buy bitter melon?