Thursday, January 8, 2009


If you've never had it, bitter melon can best be described as probably the most bitter food you've ever had. It is actually a fruit, and it grows in tropical climates. It's season is April to September, but these days you can find it year round in some Asian stores, and places like Whole Foods.  It is considered the most bitter vegetable. The texture is similar to a bell pepper. 

If you can tolerate bitter food, the nutritional benefits of this ugly little thing are definitely impressive. Bitter Melons are rich in iron. They have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain Vitamins A, C, B1 to B3, Phosphorus and good dietary fiber. Like most bitter-tasting foods, bitter melon stimulates digestion. It also has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and is widely used to control diabetes. 

There is a very authentic Japanese Restaurant here, Kappo Honda, that we go to often. The first time I ever had bitter melon was there. They saute it with thinly sliced tofu, fried egg and bacon. It is delicious, and I never considered myself to be a fan of bitter food, but this I just LOVE! I often get a second order of it just because I love it that much. The extreme bitter of the melon is perfectly balanced by the egg and tofu and the fat, salt and smokiness from the bacon somehow makes an absolutely perfect neutralizer. It doesn't remove the bitter element, but it just makes it so GOOD!

Although I do not make it as good as they do, I am still going to share my interim recipe for the dish, which is certainly excellent in my opinion. :)  This makes lunch for 2 people, or this could be a side dish for 4 if added to a dinner. 

The melon is long like a bumpy cucumber. Wash it, and there is no need to peel it. The skin is tender and edible. Cut it in half, and core out the seeds and membrane - it is very easily removed with a spoon. 

For this recipe, use 1/2 of the melon. The whole thing could be too overwhelming for a bitter melon newbie. Chop into bite sized pieces, and to eliminate some of the bitterness, blanch in lightly salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then drain and drop into ice water to keep the vibrant green color and stop the cooking. Drain and set aside. 

Cut 6 pieces of bacon into bite sized pieces, and cook in a pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the bacon is crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside and add 4 eggs to the remaining oil and bacon fat. Lightly scramble the eggs, letting them get as crispy at the edges as possible. You could also add tofu chunks if you wish, up to 4 ounces.  

When the egg is done, add the melon and bacon back into the pan (and more olive oil if needed) and saute until the melon is heated and lightly browned.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

I really think the salty smoky flavor of the bacon is what makes the perfect pairing for the bitter component -- so I bet this would also be good with Chipotle & Adobo sauce if you don't want to use bacon?