Sunday, May 31, 2009

A step too far outside my comfort zone- bitter melon

There are not alot of things I don't enjoy eating- brussel sprouts are about all I can think of. And in recent history, or since I've meet Rusty, I can honestly say I've only cooked one thing that was inedible (100 Year Eggs - gross!). Well now, make that two things.

We were at the Footscray markets last week, and I love to try out things I don't know, this time I think though I took that step too far out of my comfort zone. I think I've found another ingredient I don't like - bitter melon.

Its such a shame, cause everything around the bitter melon was delicious and I thought I was onto a really cool, quick to prepare and healthy weekday meal. And apparently bitter melon is amazingly good for you and can help with everything from diabetes to psoriasis.

The recipe I used comes from a fantastic book called "Secrets of the Red Lantern- stories and Vietnamese recipes from the heart" by Pauline Nguyen. If you've ever been to Sydney's successful Red Lantern restaurant on Crown Street in Surrey Hills, you'll know why the book is so awesome- Pauline is the chef, Luke Nguyen's sister.

Every other dish I've made out of this book has been delicious- so its not the recipe, but the overwhelming bitterness of the bitter melon. What I did think I might try is the same recipe but replacing the melon with choko or capsicum...any other ideas of what to replace it with would be very welcome!

But here's the recipe just in case for anyone who does like this rather unusual vegetable.


50g glass noodles

50g dried blck fungus, sliced

150g minced pork

4 spring onions, sliced- just the white section

3 tbsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 egg

2 bitter melons

1.5 litres chicken stock

green parts of the spring onions

tbsp chopped coriander

Soak the nookles and fungus separately in boiling water for 10 mnutes. Strain, then dry. Roughly chop the noodles into 4cm pieces and mix up with the fungus, pork, white parts of the spring onions, 1 tbsp of the fish sauce, sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt, half the pepper and the egg.

Cut the ends off the bitter melons, then cut into 2cm slices. Remove the seeds and white flesh. Wash in cold water and pat dry. Lay the discs flat and fill with the pork mixture.

Put the chicken stock in a large saucepan with the remaining fish sauce and salt and bring to the boil. Add the stuffed melon, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the greens of the spring onions, coriander and remaining pepper.


Rilsta said...

I had a flip through this cookbook quite a while ago but didn't buy it and now I can't seem to find it anymore!

Do you think it is worth buying? Are the stories entertaining too? I just remember it being on the expensive side but it looked authentic!

The only way i will eat bittermelon is if it has been cooked for ages so it becomes really soft and doesn't really taste of anything!!

Agnes said...

I think bitter melon is very much an acquired taste - I've grown up with it and yet I still don't like it! :) I think choko would work really well as a replacement.

Maree said...

Hi there,
Rilsta, I can definitely recommend this cookbook- we've made a few things out of it and with the exception of the bitter melon they have all been lovely. The family stories are interesting and I personally love the family photos.
We've just got back from a trip to Vietnam- so I'll be blogging alot of the food we ate there and some of the recipes we'll be trying (including some from this book and some we learned at a cooking course over there) over the next few weeks (internet at home has laid down and died, so we have to get that fixed first : (
While we were in Vietnam, Rusty tried a bitter melon dish- very similar to this one, but bbq-ed instead- he actually liked it...I didn't.
Agnes, I agree choko would work well- want to try that some time soon!