Monday, April 27, 2020


One of the vegetables I've loved as long as I can remember is bitter melon (also known as melón amargo, sopropo, or karela), which outside of Asian neighborhoods one will not often find in the United States. Many Caucasoid people and little children find it distasteful, too bitter. There's a reason it's called bitter melon, of course, and by now you will have wigged on to that.
It's great with fatty pork, or fish, or fish paste. Plus minced garlic ginger fermented black beans (豆豉 'dau si') and chili paste.

Supposedly it's very good for you.

苦瓜 、涼瓜

I haven't had any in weeks. One of these days I'll head over to Chinatown early in the day to see if any of the markets have it.
Seriously, I'm Jonesing here.

[It doesn't keep very well, and the last few times I did not see any.]

Years ago on a Dutch website it was described as delicious stuffed with meat, Surinamese style (?), but the author of that article had no clue what it was called in English. Sorry. So I spent several hours looking for it on the internet with no luck. It wasn't until the third day that I remembered I had purchased a Surinamese Dutch reference dictionary in Amsterdam a few years before, and that fortune smiled: momordica charantia. Which I already knew all about, darn it, I had even had it for dinner that same evening. The problem was that he had NOT mentioned the salient characteristic.
It is remarkably bitter.

To his Dutch culinary mind that wasn't important.
The description "delicious" is useless.
There were no photos.

Before corona, I would have it two or three times a month at least, but those restaurants are all closed for the duration. Years ago I often enjoyed it with fatty pork over rice at a Vietnamese Chinese restaurant on the corner of one of my favourite alleyways (they used to be on Stockton Street, before that area got dug up for the Central Subway). At one point I chose to break in a pipe I had bought several years previously and was saving for a rainy day, which it was. But first, lunch! Bittermelon, meat, rice, hotsauce, pickling juice from the chilies in vinegar and fish dew. Delicious.

Filled the pipe halfway, finished my Vietnamese coffee, paid, left.
Went into the alley with my umbrella and lit up.
And promptly kicked myself.


Why on earth had I waited all those years! This pipe was wonderful. Actually, I knew exactly why I had delayed so long, the poker shape is one of my least favourite designs. I had purchased the pipe because another Hardcastle pipe acquired previously had turned out to be a splendid smoke.
Plus the stem looked kind of ugly. Which also made me put it on the back burner so to speak.

All through that Autumn and Winter the pipe simply got better and better. Bowl after bowl of Esoterica Dunbar or Dorchester. It sings with mixtures like that. The Fog City Collection tobaccos by GLP are remarkable in it.
And obviously I remember wonderful times.
Chinatown lunch.

涼瓜燒肉 ('leung gwaa siu yiuk'), 炒臘腸涼瓜 ('chaau laap mei leung gwaa'), 涼瓜煎蛋 ('leung gwaa jin daan'), 海南雞飯('Hoi-naam kai fan') , 涼瓜斑球 ('leung gwaa pan kau'), 黄毛雞湯圓 ('wong mou kai tong yuen'), 豆豉龍脷魚 ('dau si lung lei yü'), 燒猪肉河粉 ('siu chü yiuk ho fan'), 南乳烤雞 ('naam yu haau kai'), 釀豆腐 ('yong tau fu'), etc.

Smoked it earlier today while walking.
It continues to sing with Virginias.
Now I want bitter melon.


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