During this pandemic as I have been cooking more, I began supporting a local organic farm in Hong Kong. It reminds me of my old days in Boston when I used to receive gorgeous bounties of produce every week from Siena Farms, a local farm that practiced sustainable and organic methods. This Hong Kong farm is located in one of Hong Kong's land areas preserved for farming. It's been a joy to receive weekly deliveries of local, organic produce again.
Bitter melon was heavily featured in the early summer. Although green bitter melon is pretty easy to find in Hong Kong, I was excited that this Hong Kong farm also had white bitter melon, which we usually import from Taiwan.
White bitter melon is sweeter and less bitter than the green bitter melon. Bitter melon in general is very healthy and has been known in traditional Chinese medicine to lower blood sugar. More recent scientific studies have demonstrated anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer effects in various in vitro and in vivo models.
I actually love both types of bitter melon, so I ate a lot of it during this seasonal time.
One of my favorite dishes to make was this Taiwanese pork-stuffed bitter melon. Because bitter melon and pork cook at pretty different rates, it's best to pre-steam the bitter melon before stuffing it with the pork (and then pan-frying the whole thing).
Prepare the Bitter Melon
Remove the seeds and pulp in the middle and slice into equally thick slices (I usually went for about 2.5cm, or half an inch thick). Steam the empty rings for about 5-10 min until they are fully cooked.
Make the Pork Mixture
Meanwhile, mix together ground pork with some scallions, soy sauce, corn starch, and white pepper. There's some flexibility here. For example, you could use minced shallots instead of scallions, a bit of other seasonings if you desire (e.g., oyster sauce, chili sauce, etc) according to what you prefer.
I usually keep it pretty simple and just use the ingredients I mentioned above. I've tried adding a bit of tofu to the mixture, which works OK as well.
Stuff the steamed rings with raw pork mixture.
Pan fry on high heat with oil for about 5 minutes on each side, until the pork is browned and fully cooked throughout.
Simple, and tasty. If you don't like super bitter vegetables, try the white bitter melon, which is sweeter and generally "juicier." All in all, this dish was in my regular rotation throughout most of the summer until bitter melon finally went out of seasons.
Taiwanese Stuffed Bitter Melon
2-3 bitter melons (either green or white is OK)
½ -¾ lb ground pork (can substitute half pork half tofu)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon corn starch
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 stalk scallions, minced
Slice the bitter melon into 2 cm (½ inch) slices. Remove the seeds on the inside. Steam for about 5-10 minutes until they are soft.
Mix together ground pork with soy sauce, corn starch, white pepper, salt, and scallions in a separate bowl.
Stuffed the steamed bitter melon rings with the raw meat mixture.
Pan fry on high heat with a high heat oil (e.g., grapeseed or avocado oil) for 5 min on each side, or until done.
Serve optionally with cilantro.