Cook­ing with bit­ter mel­ons

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants With A Purpose -

BIT­TER MELON is val­ued in Asian cook­ing for bal­anc­ing tastes within a dish. It tends to bring out the flavour of other in­gre­di­ents and is also neu­tralised by them.

Cook­ing meth­ods vary greatly with cul­tural pref­er­ences. In South In­dia, bit­ter melon is mixed with grated co­conut, stir-fried with spices, cooked with roasted peanuts, and pre­pared as pachadi, a medic­i­nal dish for di­a­bet­ics. In North In­dia it is of­ten served with yo­ghurt to off­set the bit­ter­ness.

Bit­ter melon is usu­ally cooked un­peeled, with only the rougher skin scraped off, which is some­what sur­pris­ing when you see them. The seeds how­ever, are purga­tive and must be re­moved, along with the soft pith.

It is of­ten stuffed or steamed - fish and meat stuff­ings are favourites – with the fruit ei­ther sliced in half length­ways or the top cut off, and the seeds re­moved.

They can be pick­led, made into chut­neys, in­cor­po­rated into clear soup, or stir-fried with meat such as crispy pork or other veg­eta­bles. A favourite is com­bined with black fer­mented soya beans in cur­ries where a com­bi­na­tion of sweet, savoury and spicy flavours masks the bit­ter­ness.

Leaves and young shoots are used too, par-boiled for a few min­utes (to re­move bit­ter­ness), the wa­ter changed, and then boiled or stir-fried like greens.

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