I Cooked A Bitter Melon And I Liked It

In my last post, I mentioned that I love vegetables.

It’s true.  I’ve literally liked, at the very least, every vegetable that I’ve ever eaten.

I especially love the vegetables that received less love such as cabbage, okra, slimy nopales, cooked spinach, and mustard greens.

I even like soggy, boiled brussel sprouts and stringy, pre-frozen asparagus.  And now I can add another veggie to the list.

I cooked a bitter melon and I liked it.

This banged-up bitter melon came from the Asian & American Market on Main Ave.  I’d never tasted a bitter melon, but often see it appear on Chowtimes, one of my favorite blogs, and Paul, of this season’s Top Chef, incorporated the  melon into a “least favorite dish” during the conveyor belt Quickfire challenge.

Squirming with curiosity, I took a nibble of a raw, unblanched slice of bitter melon and found it palatable, despite its bitterness.

Following the suggestions of many online sources, (including this thread from Chowhound and The Bitter Melon Truth from Simple, Good, and Tasty) I cut the bitter melon in half, removed the seeds and white pith with a spoon, and sliced thinly.  A quick blanch in salt water, shock in ice water, and a couple rinses supposedly removed some of the bitterness.

The blanch and rinses mellowed the bitterness, though it was most certainly still bitter melon.  Lately, I’ve been craving sour, vinegary, bitter foods so the bitter melon tasted palatable to me.  It’s highly regarded for its health properties including the management of blood sugar and acne.  Was my body trying to tell me something by screaming out for this vegetable I have never eaten?

To balance the bitterness, many favored pairing bitter melon with a fatty element.  I browned some fresh Italian sausage links with sliced onion.  Then, I added the bitter melon slices, seasoned with tamari, ground cayenne, cracked black pepper, and plenty of mirin.

My verdict:  Tasty.  Not a food I would want to eat all of the time, but I would definitely crave bitter melon on occasion.  Next time, I’ll skip the sausage and incorporate the melon into scrambled eggs. 
Jake pronounced the bitter melon “gross, aptly named, and disgusting.”  He also said it tasted like “tar.  Melony tar.”  
Apparently, Jake has eaten tar.   
How do you bitter melon?  


  1. Badgersdaughter

    Hey, I ran across this post while I was looking for bitter melon recipes. I had been recommended the vegetable by an Asian grocer in Houston, where there are a lot of Asian immigrants, for blood sugar control. I bought one and took it home, and I sliced it thinly without bothering to remove the pith and seeds (it was an immature one), and cooked it in olive oil with lots of sweet onion and a scoop of tomato sauce, and topped the dish with Parmesan cheese. No idea why, except that I vaguely remember my Italian grandmother cooking something bitter that way. Anyway, I thought it tasted like dandelion greens marinated in used coffee grounds, but I didn’t mind it and I finished the dish. It’s a little harder to find them where I live now, but I’m thinking of looking for more recipes that aren’t so strongly Asian. Thanks!

    • Jeni

      You are welcome!

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