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Bitter gourd Soup 苦瓜汤

Friday, 4 March 2011

Bitter gourd, as the name suggests, is extremely bitter so I usually braise it in strong flavoured sauces with fermented minced bean paste or salted black beans to mask the bitterness. When I went home for Christmas last year, my parents took us to a noodle shop that specialises in bitter gourd pork noodles and I was intrigued. I was skeptical at first but the soup turned out to be really tasty. You can definitely taste the bitter gourd but the bitterness was mellowed down to a tolerable and plesant extent. It was very delicious, and it definitely made me see this vegetable in a whole new light.

Bitter gourd Soup 苦瓜汤 2

Bitter gourd, also known as Balsam pear or bitter melon is member of the squash family native to southern China. It has a distinct warty and bumpy green exterior with a thin layer of flesh underneath. There are seeds in the middle covered in a white spongy mess. The seeds are usually white or light yellow, but I've seen bright red ones. Only once actually and I thought it went bad as the bright red seeds looked very toxic. After much googling, it turns out that ripe bitter gourd has red seeds and it is less bitter as compared to younger ones. Can't comment on this as I usually drown the bitterness in a very strong tasting sauce.

Bitter gourd 苦瓜

Like many other bitter food, bitter gourd has many nutrition benefits. It helps purify blood tissue, enhances digestion, stimulates the liver improves diabetic and toxemia conditions. Ever heard of the "5-green juice"? It's made with celery stalks, green apple, cucumber, green pepper and bitter gourd. This vegetable juice is great for weight loss, detox and also for preventing high blood pressure, cholesterol disorders and constipation. My dad drinks this every morning religiously. All in all, bitter gourd is really good for you. However, excessive consumption may cause mild abdominal pain or diarrhea. Pregnant women should avoid eating bitter gourd as it may stimulate the uterus and could lead to pre-term labour.

So, instead of trying really hard to kill the bitterness, I learnt to treat bitter gourd with more care. Bitter gourd soup is a great way to enjoy the bitterness of it in a pleasant way.

Bitter gourd Soup 苦瓜汤
  • 750 g chicken pieces
  • 500 g bitter gourd - cut into pieces
  • 1 large carrot - peeled and cut into chunks
  • 5 dried Chinese mushrooms
  • 1 handful Yu-zhu/Yuk-chuk (玉竹)
  • A handful dried scallops
  • 6 cups water
  • Salt

  • Cut bitter gourd into half lengthwise. Remove/ scoop out all the seeds and white spongy stuff. Cut into pieces.
  • Place all ingredients in a pot. Cook under pressure for 45 mins. Leave to cool on its own. [if not using a pressure cooker, you can simmer it for at least 2 hrs.]
  • Season with salt.

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