Cooking with bitter melons
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.