In this delightful stir-fry dish, bitter melon adds a unique flavor and nutritional punch to the already delicious combination of fermented black beans, meaty mushrooms, and sweet zucchini.
While many popular Chinese meals feature bitter melon, such as beef with bitter melon, bitter melon with eggs, and bitter melon pig bone soup, this one is not just vegan but also one that I came up with on my own.
What is Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon, also called bitter gourd, is a green fruit that is a member of the same cucurbit family as cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, and even loofah. It’s a staple ingredient in dishes across Asia, from Southeast to South.
Different types exist. While the bitter melons sold in Indian markets are prickly, the ones sold in Chinese supermarkets are softer and greener.
The fruit is extremely bitter, even more so than broccoli rabe or other similarly bitter leafy greens. It’s also quite solid and crispy in nature. It can be cooked in a wide range of textures, from entirely soft (as in our Cantonese bitter melon soup) to crisp-tender (as in our bitter melon with eggs) to somewhere in the center (as in our beef with bitter melon).
I know that bitter melon isn’t everyone’s favorite fruit or vegetable, but it’s so healthy that I can’t help but eat it.
Even if you don’t follow a vegan diet, this stir-fry of bitter melon and other vegetables will satisfy your veggie cravings. Even if you’re a confirmed fan of sweet melons, you should try bitter melons for a change of pace.
- 6.5 ounces of shiitake, oyster, or king trumpet mushrooms (diced)
- 6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
- 2 medium bitter melons
- 1 medium thinly sliced zucchini halved lengthwise
- 3 tablespoons of fermented black beans
- 2 tablespoons of water or chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of any neutral oil
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda
- 1 tablespoon of vegetarian oyster sauce or regular oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper
- Cut the melons in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, then scrape away the bitter white pith to create the bitter melon. Next, cut the melon into thin slices at a 45-degree angle.
- A medium pot of water should be brought to a boil, and an ice bath should be set up. Add the salt and baking soda and mix well as the water boils. After being blanched for 1 minute, the bitter melon should be tossed into an ice bath with a slotted spoon. Extract the liquid, and set it aside.
- Make the sauce by whisking together the oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, and water in a small bowl.
- Start by heating your wok to medium-high temperatures. Sear the mushrooms for 2–3 minutes in 1 tablespoon of oil or until they begin to soften and brown around the edges. Garlic and black beans should be added to the remaining oil. If you want your food to be fragrant, cook it for a full minute.
- Don’t turn the stove up to eleven. Pour the Shaoxing wine into the wok to deglaze it. Then, throw in some zucchini and bitter melon. Fry in a wok for around 30 seconds.
- When the bitter melon and zucchini are almost done, add the sauce mixture and stir well. Start serving right away.