Pork with Bittermelon

The most annoying vegetable I had while I growing up was Ampalaya. Yes, it was annoying. It was one those vegetables I would, at all cost, avoid. I’d rather feed myself with kangkong or any other green leafy vegetable with soup than eat that bitter tasting and inedible looking thing. I’ve never eaten one growing up, and have never appreciated its ‘healthy’ qualities as insisted by my parents and by many. Many just love Ampalaya though.  It would have been probably the bitter tasting medicines I took as a child growing up with asthma, and that life threatening sickness triggered my brain, and my tongue to dislike any other bitter tasting food.

I haven’t had any serious attack lately because of good, clean weather here in North America and thus far, haven’t returned to my medicines since I arriving here. I’m totally grateful for that and for enjoying the much healthier atmosphere here. There’s just a big difference from Asia.

I’ve been trying to release myself from this syndrome though, and it’s not really easy. I’ve seen so many kinds of vegetable in the market place, classified between East and West; as against those found in Southeast Asia.  And, if I had known how to pair each one with something else, I’d buy a couple and properly match them with either chicken, fish, pork or beef.  That discovery is only happening now. It’s not too late yet, but I have been encouraging myself to do so. Same stigma has hit me with fruits.  I work with fruits almost everyday, too and seeing, touching, looking and still having them at home would be somehow catastrophic.  It’s not easy as much as I want to include fruits into my diet.  I’ve promised myself countless times during the off-season to include fruits in my basket, but thus far, that has never happened.

To jumpstart this new food journey, I bought a portion of fresh lean pork  a few weeks back and left it in the freezer since I couldn’t decide what to do with it.  I wanted to stretch my  lean pork and the only way to do this is to pair it with a vegetable. I’ve paired it with red and green bell peppers and with onions  a long time ago and I didn’t want to do the same anymore. I really wanted something else. I’ve checked on-line a saw this recipe. I knew it would be a personal challenge given that  the bittermelon is truly ‘bitter,’  and for sure I wouldn’t like it; bringing back my past.  However, after going through the cooking process, I discovered that blanching reduces the bitterness of the bittermelon ; and so I did.  I tried it and surprisigly liked it. This is my take on that dish:


  • 1 Bittermelon
  • 1/3 of a lb. lean pork
  • Garlic, minced
  • Chicken Stock
  • Oyster Sauce
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine
  • Brown Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut the bittermelon into half and deseed using a spoon. Cut into bite size pieces and blanch in hot boiling water.

Julienne the lean pork, season with light soy sauce, salt & pepper, Shaoxing Cooking Wine and sprinkle with cornstarch.

Remove the bittermelon from the hot pot and run through cold water to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

In a wok, heat some canola or peanut oil, sauté the garlic followed by the marinated lean pork.  Keep sautéing until the pork is almost done, dump the chopped bittermelon,  and finish off with a cornstarch slurry with oyster sauce. Add the brown sugar and a dash of light soy sauce, and season to taste.

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