Yes, bitter melon is BITTER! But if you like a strong IPA ale or horehound candy, or just have a taste for something different, you just might like this interesting veggie. Technically a fruit along the lines of a squash, bitter melon has long been used medicinally to treat a number of health issues and has been a staple of Indian, China, and a number of other Indonesian cuisines.
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momordica_charantia for more information.
For this cooking demo, I used the Chinese variety of bitter melon available from Flats Mentor Farm, corn and onion from Kelly’s Farm, and tomato and garlic from Farmer Dave’s. Note: those are husk cherries in the box. I was looking for things to bring sweetness to counter the bitter, which is why I had them, but ended up not using them in the recipe. Many folks inquired about them and tried one or two upon noticing the on the table, with more than a few heading to Farmer Dave’s to get some for themselves. I’ll have some at the Kitchen Tent whenever Farmer Dave has them, so stop by to try one! Okay, now for the recipe.
Note: The proportions are not written in stone. Add more or less of any ingredient as desired, except to be sure you have enough oil to get the caramelizing effect.
Bitter Melon Sauté with Onion, Tomato, Corn, and Thai Basil
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small to medium onion, chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 or 3 cups sliced bitter melon*
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 2 Tbsp chopped Thai basil (or regular basil)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cut bitter melon in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and slice into ¼ inch or so half-moons. Chop onion and tomato, mince garlic, and cut kernels off the corn cob.
Heat oil and cook garlic and onion for just a few minutes, add the bitter melon slices, and cook until starting to get tender. Add the corn kernels and continue cooking until just tender. Stir in chopped basil and add a few pinches of salt and ground pepper to taste, a ¼ tsp to start. Let cook stirring occasionally until you see at least some caramelizing and the tomato starts to dissolve.
Season to taste and serve.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to try a bite, especially those whose suggestions helped create this recipe!