Bitter gourds have long been prized in Asia for a trait considered a defect in cucumbers: bitterness. We tend to believe that anything bitter is medicinal and, in this case, we could be correct. The bitter gourd is said to cure a wide range of ailments – from gastrointestinal conditions to cancers, and from diabetes to HIV.
Also known as bitter melons, bitter gourds are pale green, with an irregular, warty surface. Typically, they are eaten following an initial treatment to remove some of the bitterness; often they are stuffed, to complement their somewhat eccentric bite.
The soup I bring you today has an excellent balance of flavors, with the bitterness of the gourd lingering only as a closing resonance. It feels rather refreshing on the palate, clearing the taste buds for the next bite.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome this delightfully healthy and flavorful dish: an outstanding clear soup of bitter gourd stuffed with pork and glass noodles.
- 1 large bitter gourd
- 1 1/2 cups salt
- 5-6 cups stock
- 4-6 dry shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
For the stuffing
- 150 gr minced pork
- 2 coriander roots
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 50 gr dry glass noodles soaked in water and cut to 2.5cm (1″) length
- 2 tablespoons carrots finely shredded
For the garnish
- Coriander leaves
- Ground white pepper
- Cut the bitter gourd into 5cm (2″) length pieces.
- With a spoon, remove the seeds and sprinkle them generously with salt. Leave for about 20 minutes, allowing the salt to draw out some of the bitterness.
- Wash, and set aside.
- In a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic, coriander roots, white pepper, sugar and salt into a fine paste.
- Mix the pork and the coriander-garlic paste, along with the softened rice vermicelli and the carrots; season with light soy sauce and oyster sauce. Mix well.
- Stuff the bitter gourd pieces with pork filling. When the gourds are stuffed, tap them with your hands on both sides to secure the filling.
- Bring the stock to boil, add the dry shiitake mushrooms, and place the stuffed bitter gourds in the pot.
- Cook until the bitter gourds are soft.
- Season with light soy sauce.
- Serve in individual bowls; garnish with the coriander leaves and sprinkle white pepper to finish.