I have been wanting to share this Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup recipe because I believe some of my readers with adventurous palates might appreciate this.
Each recipe I share in this blog is either a family favorite or a personal favorite. Today’s recipe is a family favorite, well for my husband and me. My children eat rice with the broth from this soup minus the stuffed bitter melon. I understand. Bitter melon really lives up to its name. Forcing someone to eat something bitter is like hating that person. Just kidding. I also disliked this vegetable when I was little and in my parents’ home we ate by this principle: Eat what is being served on the table. As I got older, however, things have changed. I like bitter melon prepared as a salad, sauteed with spices and coated with scrambled eggs or in Filipino pinakbet or mixed veggies.
This weird-looking vegetable is actually amazeballs. Have you heard of its health benefits? My folks had told us that eating bitter melon helps clean out toxins from our blood, helps with blood circulation and anemia. Well, how true is it? I pulled out a few facts (see image insert) from webMD.com and if you google more, you’d see a wealth of information regarding this vegetable. In fact, it’s been claimed by many as a miracle cure for cancer. New research have appeared recently about bitter melon and that drinking its fresh juice inhibits cancer cell growth. I don’t know much about this but simple googling shows how this vegetable has been used extensively in ancient and natural medicine.
According to JustNaturallyHealthy.com:
Bitter melons are very low in calories but contain high amounts of nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folate, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. One negative about the bitter melon is that its bitter taste detracts a lot of people from consuming it, even with all of the beneficial nutrients it has to offer.
I agree about the last statement. Its bitter taste is a big turn off. I have not tried fresh bitter melon juice because I don’t think I can really take it in but I do believe in its powerful benefits to our body.
Where to Buy
So where do we buy this vegetable? You will see this vegetable in Asian stores, especially in the summer. There’s a couple of varieties of bitter melon. The Indian variety has small, sharper ridges on its skin and are a bit smaller in size compared to the Southeast asian variety. The one I am familiar with looks like the one pictured below. You can plant and grow this easily in the summer. It will yield lots of produce. It’s a climbing melon so you need a trellis for it. Or you can plant it near a fence and it will take off on its own.
Prep and Cooking Process
Alright, let’s get on with cooking. The first time I had this stuffed bitter melon was at my in-laws’ house. The mom-in-law is an excellent homecook and I have to say that this is a Vietnamese recipe. Although I have not seen her prepare it step-by-step, I know that the taste is somewhat similar. BUT her presentation is definitely better. She scrapes the pith and seeds out and places the stuffing in without cutting the bittermelon into 2 inch pieces. She only cuts them AFTER cooking. Sometimes, depending on how large and long the bittermelon is, it needs to be cut on one side lengthwise to make the ‘scooping’ easier. I do mine differently because I’m a rebel. But seriously, I find it a breeze to clean and stuff the bittermelon when it’s cut into small pieces. I use a small spoon to scrape the pith and seeds and with the same spoon, I secure the stuffing in. Once it’s all cooked, I just transfer it to a bowl (since it’s already sliced before cooking) and it’s ready for hungry stomachs. Paired with freshly cooked rice, stuffed bittermelon soup is the perfect food to eat on hot summer days and cold winter nights. Ahhh…that soup is like heaven. If you add the lemongrass in, it tastes even better. Actually, I would cook and eat this all year long as long as bitter melon is available. Hope you like it!