Bitter melon with added rewards

Bitter melon with added rewards

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

It can be hard to like bitter ingredients. I think bitterness is tolerable when it is one of a number of elements in a dish, adding intriguing complexity, rather than the focal taste. Or, if there is an alternative source to quell the bitterness, such as the exaggerated aromatic and savoury elements in the recipe here. There’s a touch of humour in the choice of the loofah here. Apparently loofahs can grow far longer than 30 cm, and when they reach full maturity these bland-tasting vegetables are actually quite bitter and can be used as a purgative.

For the loofah


Quantity Ingredient
5 large dried scallops, (see glossary)
500g fresh loofah
2 tablespoons dried anchovies, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
2 teaspoons dried goji berries, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
500ml light chicken s tock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kuzu starch, (see glossary)

For the bitter melon dressing

Quantity Ingredient
100g bitter melon, (look for the greenest, which is the mo st bitter)
80ml peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 tablespoon salted/fermented black beans, finely chopped
1 spring onion, very finely diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra for seasoning
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
peanut oil, for deep-frying


  1. Cook the loofah:
  2. Soak the scallops in 100 ml water for at least 2 hours to soften. Peel the loofah and slice into 4 cm rounds. Put the scallops and soaking water, anchovies, goji berries, garlic and chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes until the stock is tasty and smells rich. Season with the salt and sugar. Place the loofah in the hot liquid and simmer for about 5 minutes or until soft. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pass the poaching liquid through a fine sieve: you will need 200 ml of the strained liquid (any left over can be drunk as a broth or used as the stock for making any sauce or stir-fry). Pour the strained liquid into a saucepan. Blend the kuzu with a little water to make a slurry, stir into the liquid and cook until the sauce thickens. Fish out the scallops, tease into tresses and drain on paper towels.
  3. Make the bitter melon dressing:
  4. Cut the bitter melon in half and scrape out the pith (there’s no need to pare down the nubbly bits of skin). Cut into 5 mm squares. Heat a frying pan over medium–high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and stir-fry the bitter melon for about 1 minute, moving it around constantly so it doesn’t colour but turns deeper green and retains its crunch. Add 3–4 teaspoons of water and the salt and keep moving the melon around for another 1½–2 minutes. Take out of the pan and leave to cool. Heat a clean pan over medium–high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the black beans, spring onion, garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the sugar, soy sauce and sherry. Taste that the oily mixture is highly salted but with some sweetness. Stir in the bitter melon and set aside in a bowl.
  5. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch the garlic slices and then refresh them. Repeat the process of blanching and refreshing the garlic twice more, then drain and pat dry. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 180°C. Deep-fry the garlic and then the scallop tresses, draining them on paper towels. Season the garlic with sugar, and the scallop with salt.
  6. Assemble the dish:
  7. Arrange pieces of loofah and some of the bitter melon dressing on each plate. Top with the deep-fried garlic and scallop tresses and spoon a little of the loofah sauce over the plate.
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