Bitter Melon Beef

bittermelonBitter melon is one of those vegetables that have  an acquired taste, but just like any other food with unusual taste or texture, there are things that one can do to temper this gourd’s not-so-desirable qualities.

The only way I would eat bitter melon when I was growing up in the Philippines was when it was mixed with eggs and tomatoes.  Coming from a region where one of the most popular cuisine is the pinakbet  (akin to the French ratatouille) which includes bitter melon, I was a rebel eater, always pushing aside this vegetable and leaving it on my plate untouched.

But as an adult, I came to like this bitter gourd, especially with the knowledge that its is quite healthy and provides important vitamins and nutrients. Bitter melon is very low in calories, carrying just 17 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, its pods are rich sources of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

This recipe is often seen on the menu of Chinese restaurants.  The bitterness of the melon is tempered with a host of ingredients including beef strips, garlic, onions, ginger, soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean sauce, cooking wine, and of course, some sugar.  Consuming it with steamed rice further lessens the bitterness.


1 lb beef strips, very thinly sliced

1 large bitter melon, seeded and sliced into crescents

1 thumb ginger, peeled and minced

1 small onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup water

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp black bean sauce

1 tbsp white sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

4 tbsps Olive oil

1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine



In a medium bowl, combine beef strips with Chinese cooking wine, soy sauce and 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Mix well and set aside.  Heat 2 tbsps Olive oil in a large wok of medium-high heat.  Add ginger and cook until fragrant.  Add garlic and stir-fry for about a minute.  Add the beef mixture, and cook until the beef strips are nicely browned and tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Using the same wok, add the remaining Olive oil the bitter melon.  Add onions and stir-fry for about three minutes.  Add in water, oyster sauce, black bean sauce and sugar.  Reduce heat and simmer for about three minutes.  Add back the beef mixture and the remaining cornstarch diluted in water.  Add sesame oil and continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and serve warm with steamed rice.


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