Bitter melon is a melon used as an ingredient in savory dishes in Asia, India, and the Caribbeans. Although it has a bitter flavor, people still enjoy it for its health benefits.
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How Do You Use It?
Bitter melon has a very "green" flavor followed by a bitter aftertaste.
In Asian cooking, bitter melon is mostly used in stir-fries and steamed dishes.
Traditionally as a Chinese stir fry, you will usually see it being served with a black bean sauce which is made with fermented black beans. Another delicious and very common way to serve these is by stuffing them with ground pork and bean threads noodles (clear cellophane noodles) and steaming them.
To remove some of the bitterness from the melon, you may quickly par-boil it for 1 minute before stir-frying or using it but it will make the texture slightly softer and it will also remove some of the nutrients since it will go into the water during the boiling.
Where Can You Find Bitter Melon?
Bitter melon will be most commonly found at an Asian or Indian grocery store.
The bitter melons found in Asian grocery stores will look bumpy but smooth (like in the photo). Make sure they are free of bruises and look and feel firm when you are picking them out.
I personally find, the greener bitter melons are more bitter and the lighter green ones have a less bitter kick to them.
If you are looking for them in the Indian store, they will also be bumpy but will have more of a warty look to them, and be slightly shorter in length. Indian bitter melon (also known as Kerala) is also a deeper green color as well.
How Do You Store It?
You can store these in the refrigerator loosely covered in a bag (so they don't dry out). If the bitter melon is in good shape, it will keep for up to 5-7 days.