Bitter melon is not called bitter melon for nothing … yes it is very bitter … but if you take out the seeds, it won’t be bothersome. Besides life needs a little bitternes so you can better appreciate the good things – right?!? Big smiley face. It is also very healthy and makes delicious dishes. This interesting plant is hugely popular all over Asia particularly in India and China. My recipe this week is from China. No worries no exotic ingredients … you just need garlic and ginger for seasoning. The recipe is from the following source.
Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) originated in India and became popular in China in the 14th century. It is now used all over Asia. It is a bitter plant that is also sour. According to Chinese Medicine, its bitterness makes it great for the Fire element in the summer (cooling) and detoxifies the liver and its sourness supports the liver ( Wood element). It also improves digestion. In Ayurveda, it is considered a great pitta pacifying remedy that is immensely valuable for the hot months. Western research has found it to be beneficial for the prevention/treatment of many problems including diabetes, cancer, infections, skin problems, dysmenorrhea, immune system, autoimmune diseases, and colds/flus. (If you have any of these problems, please see a practitioner first though.)
Today, we often don’t get enough bitter flavor in our diet but it is important for good overall health. Chefs use sweet flavored foods to balance out the bitter flavor. In this recipe, mainly the carrots, chayote squash and potatoes do this job. If you don’t like or don’t have all these vegetables, feel free to use any sweet vegetables you have on hand and/or think would work well together. For instance, we don’t have winter squashes yet so I used zucchini instead. Of course, the pungent ginger and garlic are essential to balance out the bitter flavor as well and the bitter flavor will be barely noticable. Honestly this is a nice tasting soup.
Where can we get bitter melon in the United States? They are easily available at Asian grocery stores and are sold by Asian farmers at the farmers’ markets. You might be able to get them at smaller grocery stores too.
Please note that the soup on the picture does not have chicken. I also added lemon grass because I have it in my garden and has a nice flavor.
- .25-.0.5 lb of chicken thighs or breasts (skinless)
- 1 bitter melon
- 1 chayote squash or zucchini or any squash
- 4 regular carrots, cut into small chunks
- 2 Roma tomatoes, quadered
- 2 small potatoes, cut into small chunks
- 2 stalks celery , sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small chunk ginger, about 2 tablespoons chopped
- chicken broth
- salt to taste
- Make the chicken stock. Omit if using store bought.
- Cut bitter melon in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Discard seeds. (They come out easily).
- Meanwhile peel and chop the ginger and the garlic. Peel the potatoes if you wish. Cube the tomatoes and the potatoes. Clean and slice the squash, carrots, celery. When ready slice the bitter melon.
- Cut the chicken up into small pieces.
- Put all ingredients in a medium sized pot, cover well with chicken stock and cook covered for about 45 minutes or untill vegetables are soft. I added the zucchini in the last 20 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Photo and text by twincitiesherbs.com