Bitter Melon – Both a Medicine and a FoodAugust 10, 2011
Bitter melon is not for everyone. Also called goya or nigauri (Japanese), or just bitter gourd, it is – as you might have guessed – bitter. And bitter foods are an acquired taste. The counterpoint to this, though, is that bitter foods often have extraordinary medicinal and nutritional value. They make a nice counterpoint to the abundance of sweetened foods we eat every day as well. For potassium alone, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of goya deliver 319 milligrams of potassium.
One of the most popular dishes for this is goya champuru, an Okinawa specialty that features bitter melon stir fried with tofu, pork and bean sprouts. It is a great way to get introduced to the taste, and this goya champuru recipe at Flickr is as good as any. A little farther down, I will show you how to make simple pickled bitter melon. Again, this is if you have already decided you are a bitter melon fan.
First, some info regarding the nutritional and medicinal benefits of goya, or bitter melon. It is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and has shown effectiveness in fighting viruses, fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, and helping diabetics, among others. This truly is closer to medicine than just about any other vegetable known. Just head over to Wikipedia for more info along these lines.
It’s easy enough to cut in half lengthwise, so get started. When you have it open, it looks like this:
OK. Now you want to use the spoon to scrape out the pulpy stuff and the seeds inside. Then you slice the goya as show. Don’t make the slices too thick, or they won’t pickle well.
Now, mix the slices with a generous portion of salt, and leave to sit for 15 or 20 minutes. This greatly reduces the bitterness. If you prefer to keep the bitterness (and maximize the nutritional value), you can skip this step. After the time is up, be sure to rinse the goya to remove the salt. Then move on to the next step, which is simply adding rice vinegar and sugar to pickle it. Generally, I use 2 parts vinegar to one part sugar, but the best idea is just to taste it as you slowly add both. Mix well, and let it chill for a few hours until you are ready to eat.
It’s very simple. Your body will thank you, as will your taste buds once you learn to embrace the flavor of bitter melon.