Friday, March 24, 2017

Lao Bitter Melon Soup

Bitter Melon Soup
 Bitter melon, or bitter gourd. As a child I didn't like eating it at all. So bitter. But there's something about this flavor. It's not just bitter, it's ... complex. A word I'm using because it's just hard to describe. Like I said, as a child I didn't appreciate this at all. My mom would always say "it's medicinal!" She was really ahead of her time, now you can find this stuff in capsules! We were drinking Aloe Vera tea, artichoke tea, choking down two tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar before it was hipster. Sigh. Maybe that's why I'm built like an ox. *snort*

Ingredients for Bitter Melon Soup.
Back to the Bitter Melon, or Momordica charantia. You can find these in most Asian markets. I hear from Wikipedia that the shoots and young leaves of the plant can also be eaten. I haven't had a chance to try them. There are several varieties of bitter melon, bitter gourd, or bitter squash. I use the Chinese variety as shown, the Indian variety is more wrinkled and a deeper green color.

Chinese Bitter Melon.
As I got older (middle school) I would eat just the broth and meat in this Bitter Melon Soup. Now I find I crave that bitterness from the actual melon. I add a carrot to my filling to give it some sweetness that balances the taste of the melon well. I also blanch the melon before cooking it to mellow it out. My mom would never do this if she did she would use the blanching water as her stock base, because you know medicinal qualities. If you haven't tried this melon, or had this soup I hope you will. Maybe start with a small pot and just one butter melon. I have found that this soup freezes well after I cook it. The butter melon get's a little mushy but not overly. Which is great because I can make one pot of this and freeze portions for later. 

Stuffed Bitter Melon
Last time I made this I left out the noodles and the oyster sauce for a whole 30 version. It was so yummy. I didn't miss those ingredients at all!!

Lao Bitter Melon Soup

2 Bitter Melon/ Bitter Gourd
40 grams cellophane noodles
1 pound ground pork (Chicken, beef, turkey can also be used) 
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 small carrot shredded
1 small shallot minced
1-2 cloves garlic minced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
ground black pepper or ground white pepper

Chicken or pork stock
Ground white peppercorns
Fish Sauce

  1. Soak cellophane noodles in hot tape water for 5-10 minutes until pliable. 
  2. Drain noodles well and cut into 2 inch strands.
  3. Optional step: For less bitter soup and melon- boil water in a pot. Place whole bitter melon into the water and boil for a 2-4 minutes. Discard water.
  4. Mix noodles, pork, oyster sauce, carrot shallot, garlic, dish sauce, and pepper together.
  5. Cut the bitter melon into 2 inch rounds. Scrape out the insides of the melon and discard.
  6. Stuff the filling into the bitter melon rounds.
  7. Form any remaining filling into meat balls.
  8. Bring the stock to a boil, 
  9. Add bitter melon and any meat balls to the soup.
  10. Turn heat to a medium, medium low heat.
  11. Cook until meat is done throughout about 15-20 minutes.
  12. Season the soup to taste.
  13. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and serve with Jasmine rice.
Instant Pot directions:

  1. Add stock to the Instant Pot along with stuffed bitter melon and any meat balls.
  2. Close the lid and select MANUAL, HIGH pressure for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Natural pressure release for about 10 minutes.
  4. Check to see if pork is cooked through, add more time if it is not. 
  5. Season to taste and serve.
Pork stock-
I make my pork stock with pork neck bones, pork bones, peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic cloves, coriander/cilantro stems, onion, carrot, and water. Wash the bones well before cooking. If using an Instant Pot, I just set it on MANUAL, HIGH pressure for 20-60+ minutes. Twenty minutes if I'm in a hurry, longer if I have the time. Once done just skim off the top and or strain for a nice clear stock. For the stove top, bring water to a boil with all the ingredients and simmer for about an hour, skimming off the top as needed to keep the stock clear. Read more about stocks and how I keep my freezer stocked with them HERE.

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