Savory Beef & Bitter Melon Delight

July 28, 2023

Beef & bitter melon delight is not just a name; it’s a flavor sensation. Though bitter melon paired with beef might sound offbeat, in a stir-fry, it’s pure enchantment. The term “bitter melon” could raise eyebrows, yet this dish’s allure, with its tender beef, distinct melon profile, and depth of black bean sauce, has enamored many, myself included.

Bitter Melon’s Charm

For numerous Chinese families, the consumption of bitter melon, often referred to as “bitter gourd,” is a summer ritual. Rooted in traditional beliefs, it’s thought to have cooling properties that help counterbalance the sweltering heat of summer. Many are wary of its bitter taste, but with the right recipe in hand (like this one!), you can subdue that bitterness, unveiling its true potential.

And here’s a fun fact: Bitter melon isn’t just a tasty vegetable. It’s been acknowledged for its potential health benefits. Sites like WebMD highlight that compounds within the bitter melon might aid in reducing blood sugar levels. Just think of it as the unsung hero amidst renowned superfoods like acai and goji berries. Ready to give it a shot?


For the Main Dish:

  • 1 pound beef (450g, preferably flank steak, sliced against the grain)
  • 2 medium-sized bitter melons
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons oil (divided)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons black beans (cleaned and drained)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • A pinch of white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water (or chicken stock, if you prefer)

For the Beef Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing wine
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water

Steps to Create Magic:

  1. Begin by marinating the beef slices with the listed marinade ingredients. Set aside for a minimum of 20 minutes to let the flavors meld.
  2. To tackle the bitter melon, halve them lengthwise and remove the seeds. Ensure you clear out the white portions; they’re the main culprits behind the bitterness. Slice the cleaned melon diagonally for aesthetic appeal.
  3. Get an ice bath ready. Boil water and stir in a tablespoon each of salt and baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for about a minute. Quickly transfer it to the ice bath to retain its vibrant color and halt cooking. Drain and keep aside.
  4. Fire up your wok on high heat, add a tablespoon of oil, and give the marinated beef a quick sear for around 45 seconds. Once done, remove and set aside.
  5. Using the same wok, pour in another tablespoon of oil. Medium heat is ideal here. Sauté the garlic and black beans briefly. Crank up the heat and introduce the bitter melon, giving it a quick toss. Add the shaoxing wine, sugar, both soy sauces, sesame oil, and white pepper. Ensure everything gets well-acquainted.
  6. Time to reintroduce the beef! If you’re in the mood for some extra sauce, add chicken stock. Adjust seasoning as needed. Here’s a personal tip: covering the wok for an additional minute allows the flavors to intensify, making the bitter melon softer and reducing its bitter edge.

There you have it! A sensational stir-fry that’s sure to wow your taste buds and maybe even turn you into a bitter melon convert. Enjoy!

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