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Traditional stir fried Chinese bitter melon recipe made with beef and a homemade black bean sauce
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4.77 from 17 votes

Stir Fried Bitter Melon with Beef and Black Bean Sauce

A traditional stir-fried Chinese bitter melon recipe made with beef and a homemade black bean sauce made from scratch.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 2 Servings
Calories: 354kcal
Author: Joyce Lee


  • 1 bitter melon
  • 200 g beef (flank, skirt, or any type of steak, cut into thin slices)

Beef Marinade

Homemade Black Bean Sauce

Corn Starch Slurry (Thickener)



  • Wash the bitter melon, and on a cutting board - cut it length wise down the middle
  • Scrape the seeds out with a spoon
  • Thinly slice the melon (¼ inch thick) and set it aside in a bowl
  • Mix the corn starch and water (the water must be cold) and set aside for the very end. We will use the corn starch slurry to thicken the sauce.

Marinating the Beef

  • Thinly slice the beef and add it to a bowl
  • Combine the marinade ingredients into bowl with the beef and mix it together. Set it aside for later.

Preparing the Homemade Black Bean Sauce

  • In a bowl, gently rinse the fermented black beans for a few seconds to soften it a bit more and to rinse out some of the salt.
  • On a cutting board, smush the beans up with the back of a spoon (or finely chop it with a knife) and add it back to the bowl.
  • Finely chop the garlic and add it to the bowl
  • Combine the rest of the 'Homemade Black Bean Sauce' ingredients into the bowl and mix and set aside

Boiling the Bitter Melon (Optional)

  • Fill a pot up with water and set it on the stove and wait for it to boil.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the bitter melon in and cook it for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Drain and run the bitter melon under cold water in a strainer or throw it in a ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  • Once the bitter melon is cool, set it in a strainer/colander and set it aside.

Stir Frying Everything Together

  • In a frying pan, add a bit of oil and set it to medium to medium high heat
  • Once the pan and oil is hot, add in the beef and quickly stir fry it until it is just cooked (approximately 3-4 minutes)
  • Add in the fermented black bean sauce and cook it for 1-2 minutes
  • Stir the corn starch slurry (the corn starch will settle to the bottom), and once it is well mixed, add it into the sauce keep stirring until the sauce is thick - the sauce should be a dark brown color that looks glossy and thick. (Don't worry if the sauce looks very thick, it will stick to the bitter melon better this way)
  • Add in the bitter melon and cook it for 1-2 minutes. If you didn't boil it, cook it for 1-2 minutes more.
  • Enjoy with a side of rice! :)


  • To retain more nutrients from the bitter melon, you can skip pre-boiling the bitter melon and directly cook it in the frying pan with the sauce. The bitter melon will be more bitter and have a bit more raw veggie crunch.
  • This recipe makes enough for 2 people but can easily doubled with no issues


Serving: 1Serving | Calories: 354kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 9g | Sodium: 2353mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 11g