August 1, 2011

Stir Fried Bitter Melons with Prawns

Occasionaly, I have craving for bitter melons or bitter gourds in English. I must admit, bitter melons are not for culinary cowards as not everyone will have a palate for it. Most people are put off by the name and those who have tried it probably find it to be quite unpleasant. If it is cooked right it is quite delicious as it is a matter of acquired taste. Speaking of tastes, bitterness is one of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty). In fact, bitter melon is a fruit and not a vegetable, and is perhaps the most bitter of all Asian vegetables. It is an oblong shape, with a light to medium green in color. The surface has irregular ridges and bumps that looks like warts. It is commonly cooked with beef or chicken, with strongly flavored ingredients such as black bean sauce, and other spices to neutralize the bitterness. Surprisingly, the bitterness does not impart on other ingredients, but rather give it a savory after-taste. My mother used to make a soup with meat as she believed to cleanse the blood and help lower cholesterol. Go ahead, and try this unusual healthy food---you might just like it!
1 medium sized bitter melon
¼ lb medium prawns
2 tsp. black bean sauce paste
2 tsp. oyster sauce
1 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with a little water
1 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
1. Cut bitter melon in half and use a spoon to remove the seeds and white rind in the middle. Slice into ¼-inch thick. Put in a bowl and rub the bitter melons with the salt. Le it sit for about 5-8 minutes. Gently squeeze the salt out and rinse off with water. Drained well.
2. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add in the bitter melon and fry for about 8-10 minutes. Remove to a plate, return pan and heat 1 teaspoon of oil and fry the garlic, followed by the prawns.
3. When the prawns are almost cooked, stir in the sauces and bitter melons, continue to fry until the sauce has incorporate with the prawns and bitter melons. Season and adjust seasonings to your taste. Add in the cornstarch mixture to thicken. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 5-8 minutes (add some more liquid if you like more sauce).
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