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Saffron 59 Catering is New York City's premier caterer and event planner specializing in Southeast Asian cuisine. For over 11 years, Saffron 59 has successfully orchestrated memorable affairs with attention to every detail.

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Is it a gourd or a melon?

Irene Wong

Commemorating the Asian Heritage Month in May, one of the meals that is reflecting me every now and then is one of my mother's favorite dish. The stuffed bitter gourds. Growing up with my four brothers and a sister, this particular dish was not a favorable among the male members of the family. My mom and I often find this dish very comforting and enjoyed the particular bitterness of the gourd. 

The plant originating from Africa, some called it bitter melon or bitter gourd. They're common to Chinese, Indian, Carribean and many other Asian cuisines. It is common to find it in a local Asian supermarket.

Stuffed with chopped pork and spicy lemongrass paste

Stuffed with chopped pork and spicy lemongrass paste

Stuffed with minced meat and simmered in a chicken soup, or stuffed with bean threads, black ear trumpet mushroom and spring onion which balances the strong bitter taste out quite nicely.

It's rice in vitamin and nutritious. Known for medicinal elements from diabetes to sleep disorder. The type you'll use in this recipe is actually the Chinese variety. It's rounder at the ends and smoother looking than the pointed, Indian variety. In my experiences some seem to be bitter than others, and it's really a toss-up. 

The years that I spent in Saigon, Vietnam, I consumed bags of bitter melon chips after school. It is a great snack that all ages enjoy. With the Vietnamese version, stuffed with ground pork, a pack of dried mung bean noodles, chopped black ear fungus, fish sauce to taste and black pepper.

bitter melon .jpeg

Here is my version I recently prepared in my home kitchen.

1/2 cup ground lean pork

5 pieces of water chesnut (in a can or fresh)

1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons minced scallions

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon cornstarch

2 medium bitter gourds

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

For the dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 cup of water

4 tablespoon of fish sauce

4 teaspoon of vinegar

1 teaspoon of chili sambal

4 tablespoon of lime juice

Directions:

Trim the ends off the bitter melons and slice into 1 inch slices. Diced the water chestnuts.

With a small paring knife, carefully cut out the pulp and seeds in the center of each slice, leaving only the melon wall.

Combine all of the stuffing ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. 

Stuff the cavity of each slice with a generous spoonful of stuffing, pack it tight.

As the slices are stuffed, arrange them on a plate and set the plate in a steamer with water coming within an inch of the plate. 

Cover and steam for 15 minutes.

Arrange the cooked slices on a serving plates, reserving the juices on the plate for the sauce.

Dipping sauce:

Combine water, vinegar, sugar and gradually bring it to a boil or put in microwave to melt the sugar and stir. Add fish sauce and the rest of the ingredients.