Monday, November 5, 2012

Bitter Melon Soup

Growing up, one of my mother's favorite soups was her canh kho qua or bitter melon soup.  We had a family friend who grew bitter melons in her garden and each year she would give us dozens.  My mom was so excited when she was given handfuls of bitter melons that she would make her favorite soup right way.

Bitter melon soup, as in its name is quite bitter and it is definitely an acquired tasteAs a child, I didn't quite acquire that taste and would never eat it.  Over the summer, my mother would make this soup at my house nearly every week because of the high nutrient content.  That and my sister and brother in law love the soup.

The other day as I was in the grocery store, I walked past the bitter melon and craved it.  It's probably one of the oddest feelings to have.  I craved something that I didn't really like growing up so I picked up a few and decided to make bitter melon soup.  Oddly enough, it was exactly what I needed.

Bitter Melon Soup
2-3 medium length 8-12 inch bitter melons
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 peeled shallot

pork filling
1/2 pound of ground pork
1 package of bean thread noodle (1/2 cup), soaked and cut into 1-2 inch lengths
1/4 of onion, chopped
1/4 cup black fungus (also known as wood ear mushroom), soaked and chopped
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp pepper

1 green onion, thinly chopped
sprigs of cilantro, thinly chopped

Mix together the pork, bean thread noodles, black fungus, onion, fish sauce, sugar, pepper and salt.

To reduce the bitterness, blanch the entire bitter melon in salted boiling water for 2 minutes.  The color will turn dark green.  Remove and allow to cool.   When cool to the touch, slice melons cross wise into 1 to 1.5 inch pieces. Using a table spoon or knife, drive it between the green outer flesh and the center white pith. Hold the bitter melon in one hand and spoon/knife in other, and slowly core out the pith and seeds with a circular motion.

Add the peeled shallot to the stock and bring to boil. In the meantime, stuff the bitter melons with the pork stuffing. 


When stock is boiling add the stuffed bitter melons and cover reducing heat to low, cook for about 20 minutes or until the center of the pork is done. Season broth with some salt and sugar to taste. Transfer to soup bowl and garnish with chopped green onion and cilantro. Serve with jasmine rice.


Sometimes, I'll cut the bitter melon even thinner before serving.


Too bad my mom lives hours away.  She'd be proud I am not only eating bitter melons, but I'm making her soup!

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