There’re two types of bitter gourd in my neck of the woods: big and small. I think some health freaks enthusiasts buy the small ones to make juice? Ewww . . . . They look really bitter – the gourds, not the fr . . . sorry, health enthusiasts.

Bitter gourds that are really bitter have hard, narrow ridges and are darker green. The less bitter ones are relatively softer, less green, more yellow, and have wide ridges. The bitter gourds I cook are the big ones that, over the years, have become less bitter. I used to sweat them before cooking but that’s not necessary now.

I love frying the living daylights out of thinly sliced bitter gourd. The wok must be stonking hot and no water is added so that everything is dry and nicely charred. That includes an egg which, because there’s too little oil, sticks to the wok and burns. I then scrape it up with a spatula, making sure I get everything off. These little bits of slightly burnt eggs, along with the garlic and caramelized light soya sauce, add to the fragrance from the charred bitter gourd.

Dry-fried bitter gourd may look quite unattractive compared to a green and moist stir-fry that has water added. But the strong aroma more than makes up for the lack of looks. I’d rather enjoy bitter gourd with my mouth and nose than eyes. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!

(Recipe for 4 persons)

250 g bitter gourd (aka bitter melon), rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 big clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp light soya sauce
pinch of sugar
1 egg, beaten with ½ tsp light soya sauce

Spread out bitter gourd on a plate for 10-15 minutes so that it dries out a bit.

Heat wok (preferably not non-stick) till stonking hot. Add oil and heat till just smoking. Add garlic and stir to coat with oil. Do not brown. Add bitter gourd. Stir briefly, then spread out bitter gourd in the wok and let it fry, without stirring, till lightly brown. Turn over and fry till second side is also lightly brown. Drizzle with 1 tbsp light soya sauce and add pinch of sugar. Stir till soya sauce is absorbed. Drizzle with beaten egg. Wait a few seconds for the egg to turn slightly brown. Mix gently, scraping any egg that may be stuck to the wok. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Plate and serve.

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