Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup With Pork Bones

June 3, 2022

End-of-summer bitter melon is best served in a Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones.

As one of the healthiest veggies (fruits?), the bitter melon is considered a superfood. Pork softens its robust flavor, making this a great transitional soup as we approach fall.

We’ve used bitter melon in the kitchen twice already this summer. One bowl of this soup was not enough for Sarah, who ate it all in one sitting.


  • 2 ounces of pearl barley (soaked; 2 ounces/60g = about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of meaty pork bones (such as neck bones and/or ribs)
  • 2-3 dried red dates (AKA dried jujubes)
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 slices of ginger (1-inch long, ⅛-inch thick slices)
  • 12 ounces of bitter melon (about 1 large melon)
  • salt (to taste)
  • MSG (optional)


1. Pearl barley should be soaked for at least two hours or overnight before cooking. Drain and put aside. To remove impurities from the pork bones, soak them in cold water for 1-2 hours, changing the water halfway through.

2. Clean the pig bones by scrubbing them with your hands, removing any dirt or bone spurs. Ensure that the water is enough to cover them in a large stockpot. 1 minute after bringing to a boil, remove from heat. Remove the soup pot from the heat, rinse the pork bones thoroughly, and discard the water.

3. Replacing the pork bones with the soaked barley, dates, 8 cups of water, and sliced ginger, return the stock to the stovetop. Serve after removing from the heat and cooling for a few minutes. Simmer for two hours on medium heat with a lid on once the mixture reaches a boil.

4. Begin by cutting half the bitter melon in half lengthwise while the soup is cooking. Scoop out the seeds and remove the white pith with a spoon, which can be quite bitter. Each half should be sliced into big pieces. Dispose of.

5. Using a skimmed spoon, remove the fat from the soup after simmering for two hours at a simmer. Boil 30 minutes after adding the bitter melon. If you’d want a little extra kick, feel free to sprinkle some MSG on top (this is optional!). Serve the pork ribs with a mild soy sauce for dipping.

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