An easy Cantonese stir-fry recipe for bitter gourd with eggs flavoured tastefully with light soy sauce, sesame oil, Chinese wine, and ground pepper. Serve this as a light and refreshing side dish to accompany your mains at any Chinese meal.
Growing up, I seemed to be one of those kids who couldn’t eat their bitter veggies, especially bitter gourd or bitter melon. Now, my mother knew that I loved eating eggs to no end. So she would often cook this stir-fried bitter gourd with eggs. Because, what’s not to love about fried eggs, right?
Alas, my mother had no idea what an insurmountable task it would be to get me to take to bitter gourd. No matter the myriad ways in which she cooked it, I’d avoid it like the plague at the table.
Of course, that only earned me an earful at best, and Mum made me eat it nonetheless.
Mind you, Mum was known for her good cooking. My friends from school always loved coming over for after-school meals at the slightest invitation.
They knew that doing study or homework together usually meant an afternoon of meals, snacks and treats till way past afternoon tea. So everything was always gobbled up with much gusto and appreciation.
They lapped up everything that my Mum fed them, bitter veggies included. Inevitably, I became the butt of their teases and jokes.
‘Bitter gourd’s not bitter at all!‘, they would mumble in between mouths and cheeks so stuffed with food, you’d think they had mumps.
It took me thirty odd years to finally appreciate and enjoy this vegetable. And I’m hoping to show you how you can prepare a simple but very tasty bitter gourd dish that is delicious and nutritious to boot!
Bitter gourd in Chinese cooking
In Chinese cooking, bitter gourd is a versatile vegetable. Once you’ve acquired a taste for it, you will enjoy it immensely. It’s great stir-fried as well as deep-fried, steamed and stewed in soups.
Just like how my mother showed me when I was a kid, I also enjoy cooking bitter gourd slices stuffed with delicious minced pork, in clear broth or rich gravy. You know just how much I love lapping up gravy.
You can also enjoy a tasty and nutritious soup of stewed bitter gourd with pork.
But my favourite way to eat it? I love it most as a dish of stir-fried bitter gourd with eggs, and often with salted radish as well.
In this recipe, which is a typical Cantonese-style preparation, the eggs are lightly scrambled till just almost cooked. The heat is then turned off so that the scrambled eggs stay a little moist and mushy.
Health and nutritional benefits
There’s no doubt that the bitter gourd is highly nutritious. Here’s why:
- Bitter gourd contains lots of vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3 and C.
- It is also an abundant source of minerals. These include magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, as well as folic acid.
- Bitter melon contributes dietary fibre into our diet. Trust me, it’s great for bowel health!
- It also contains a plant-based insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. As well as lots of health-benefiting flavanoids such as ß-carotene, α-carotene, lutein, and zea-xanthin.
- Bitter gourd stimulates easy digestion and peristalsis of food through the bowel, thus aiding digestion and bowel movements.
Cooking with bitter gourd
With hues of green ranging from dark emerald to light apple, bitter gourds vary in size. From small to large, bitter gourd are usually oval or oblong shaped.
Each has characteristic ‘teeth’ or ridges. And they are just as varied in their bitterness.
For the most part, Chinese cooking uses the larger, light green, oblong shaped bitter gourd. These are generally less bitter.
And for the uninitiated, the good news is that its bitterness can be considerably reduced (see below). When choosing one, try to get the light green, oblong variety with wide or ‘fat’ pronounced ridges.
How to prepare for stir-fry
- Wash the bitter gourd and slice a bit off the top where the stem is.
- Slice the bitter gourd in half, lengthwise.
- Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and soft pith.
- Slice thin or thick slices, slantingly or perpendicularly to the length of the bitter gourd.
- To reduce bitterness (optional): Place in a bowl with some salt, and let sit for 15 minutes. You will see a bit of juices pool at the base of your bowl. Drain the bitter juices. Then rinse thoroughly a few times to wash off the salt. Drain and set aside until needed.
Here’s what you’re going to need:
- bitter gourd slices
- minced garlic
- salted radish (optional)
- chicken seasoning powder
- seasonings for eggs – light soy sauce, Chinese wine, sesame oil, and ground pepper
- Step 1: In a heated wok with some oil, stir fry garlic and salted radish (optional) until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
- Step 2: Add bitter gourd slices and stir fry over high heat until they start to turn limp and soften, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken seasoning powder and some water and toss to mix well.
- Step 3: Next, pour in the seasoned egg mixture.
- Step 4: Allow the mixture to set just a little. Then, keep turning over the bitter gourd slices a couple of times to lightly scramble the eggs. When most of the eggs have almost set but are still moist, turn off the heat. Dish out and serve immediately.
Cantonese Stir-fried Bitter Gourd with Eggs
- 1 medium-sized bitter gourd
- 1 – 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 2 – 3 tsp minced salted radish
- ½ tsp chicken stock powder or granules
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- ½ tsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp Chinese wine
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper
- Half the bitter gourd length-wise. Scrape out the seeds using a spoon. Slice thinly into 3-mm slices or to your desired thickness. Place in a bowl.
- To reduce the bitterness and juice content of the bitter gourd, sprinkle the slices all over with salt. Rub the salt into the gourd slices, or toss several times to distribute the salt. Leave aside for 15 minutes.
- Drain the juices. Rinse a few times to rid the slices of excess salt. Drain and set aside.
- Dissolve chicken stock powder or granules in hot water. Break the eggs into a separate bowl, beat lightly and season with light soy sauce, Chinese wine, sesame oil and ground pepper.
- Heat up a wok or frying pan over medium heat. When wok or pan is very hot, add the oil.
- When oil is hot, stir fry garlic and salted radish until fragrant, about 10 to 15 seconds. Add the gourd slices, and stir fry for about 2 minutes or until the slices start to soften and turn a bit limp.
- Add the chicken stock water and sugar. Toss for a few seconds to combine well.
- Turn up the heat to high. Add the lightly beaten eggs, and stir fry till they are scrambled and still slightly wet. Turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately.
- To reduce bitterness, mix bitter gourd slices with a bit of salt in a bowl and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, drain the pool of juices at the bottom of the bowl. Then rinse a few times to remove all traces of excess salt.
- If you wish to reduce the bitterness even more, grab handfuls of bitter gourd slices and squeeze out as much juice as possible. The slices will be much softer as well and cook more quickly. Then rinse a few times to remove all traces of excess salt.