Does the descriptive name, Bitter Melon, cause you to shy away from these green, cucumber-like vegetables? Don’t shake your head and reject them yet. Let me tell you, when prepared appropriately, bitter melon can be savory and extremely appetizing, like this Chinese bitter melon salad recipe. You’re going to love it.
So, what do you expect for bitter melon? Bitter, obviously! There are two types of bitter melons that are popular in Asian grocery stores: Chinese and Indian. Although they appear slightly different in color and size, my Indian friends and I use similar method to remove some of the bitterness from these melons.
How to remove some of the bitter taste of bitter melon?
- Marinating in salt
- Blanch in boiling water
- Marinating in salt-water
- Adding a small amount of sugar in dishes, such as Chinese stir-fry
My mom used to make bitter melon in the summer. She would rub salt on the sliced bitter melon. After letting them set for 10 minutes, she would rinse off the salt and blanch the bitter melon slices in water for 1 minute, followed by rinsing with cold water to keep the crunchiness of the bitter melon.
She passed onto me her technique of preparing bitter melon. You definitely don’t want to remove the bitterness totally. Just like hot and spicy adds to the enjoyment of food, a little bitterness does the same thing. The remaining bitterness also gives the bitter melon a pleasant and unique flavor. When adding some crunchy, oven-roasted peanuts, apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic, this salad is just so perfect and refreshing. Not to mention fun to eat.
- 3 medium bitter melons, seeded
- ¾ tablespoon kosher salt (for marinating)
- 5 cups water
- 5 cups ice water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- ½ teaspoon coconut sugar or organic raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts
- ¼ cup sliced red bell pepper
- Wash bitter melons, and cross cut them in half on a cutting board. Use a chopsticks or a paring knife to insert into each half of the bitter melons and carefully discard the seeds.
- Slice bitter melons into ¼ inch slices and place them into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt and gently massage with kosher salt. Marinate for 10 minute at room temperature.
- Meanwhile, bring 5 cups water to a boil. Rinse the marinated bitter melon slices with cold water and then transfer them into the boiling water. Cover with lid. After the water is boiling again, let the bitter melon boil for 1 minute.
- Quickly transfer the bitter melon slices into a colander and rinse with cold water briefly. Transfer them into ice water to cool them quickly and completely. Approximately 3 minutes. This step will prevent any further cooking of the bitter melon and keep the crunchy texture.
- Drain and transfer the bitter melon slices into a salad spinner to remove any excess water.
- Heat a skillet on high heat until it’s smoky hot. Reduce the heat to medium. Add oil and wait for approximately 15 seconds until the oil is hot. Add minced garlic and ginger. Remove the skillet from heat.
- Mix in the remaining salad dressing ingredients.
- In a large mixing bowl, gently toss together the bitter melon slices, salad dressing, peanuts, and red pepper slices. Serve immediately or cold.