BITTER MELON - FRESH AND SWEET
While most women can understand the boyish immaturity that leads males to see this vegetable in a decidedly wicked light, they themselves realize that the surface and the dimension of the thing are quite unsuitable for whatever it is that men envision.
And they will suggest that if that is how it is, the men should use it on themselves.
They will not, however, wish to observe that endeavor.
Women aren’t into stupid pet tricks.
I cannot remember when or where I first tasted bitter melon. Possibly somewhere in the Philippines or Indonesia, as I remember it being called ‘pareya’. The Tagalog word is ‘ampalaya’, the Indonesian term is ‘peria’.
It is aptly named. Quite bitter. In a refreshing herbal sort of way.
Green tasting, grassy, and fresh-fresh-crunchy.
And it is also very good for you.
I was delighted to discover that it was available in San Francisco many years ago, and have since then often cooked it at home. Indonesian style preparations, Indian dishes, and in Chinese recipes, all can. It is suitable for eating in combination with many things, but it cannot be described as a subtle taste.
苦瓜 FU GWA
In a stew with fatty pork (五花腩), sherry, stock, ginger and garlic.
Asinan pareya - salted, mixed with vinegar and crisp vegetables.
Stirfried with black beans (豆豉) and preserved pork (臘肉).
Sambal pareya tan urang - fried with chilipaste and shrimp.
Scrambled eggs, chilies, bitter melon, fish sauce (魚露).
Chicken, black fungus (木耳), pareya.
Stewed with other vegetables and shrimp paste (鹹蝦醬).
Crumbled fried cashews can be strewn over any of these.
It adds a nice textural effect.
凉瓜 LEUNG GWA
In Chinatown it is available at a number of restaurants paired with fish and black bean sauce.
One of the places at which I eat also serves it with pork or chicken.
The most common preparation that people know, oddly enough, is bitter melon beef. Perhaps because beef always tastes somewhat off to the Cantonese. Cooking it with bitter melon may distract the diner from an overly bovinitic echo.
To prepare it for cooking, slice it in half and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and pith. Slice it across, then put it in a bowl, sprinkle salt over, and let it stand a while. This will denature some of the bitterness. Squeeze, rinse, re-squeeze. Then stirfry it till toothsome, or add it into soup.
It can also be cut into segments, deseeded and salted, then stuffed with a paste of fatty meat with a little garlic, ginger, five spice, starch, and rice wine. These are then braised, with scant sauce added, or steamed and served in their cooking juices.
However you do it, you may be the only person in the household to eat it.
Most white people are frightened by assertive vegetables.
Maybe they should try bitter melon with cheese sauce?
If I were stuck on a dessert island, I would want bitter melon, Chinese broccoli, mustard greens, cucumbers, and Romaine lettuce to thrive there.
Plus a pig.
Being a single man I don't have many reasons to cook now.
That's why I eat in Chinatown a lot.
Good food, bright lights.
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