Lemongrass and Thyme Stuffed Bitter Melon
When I was a kid, I hated bitter melon. It was too bitter for my taste and I didn’t understand why grown-ups liked it so much. When my parents cooked it with pork, I wouldn’t even eat the pork because it had made contact with the melon. Then something changed in my mid-twenties. I gave it another try and it actually tasted pretty good. I’m not sure how I acquired a taste for it, but I liked it. Remember the first time you had beer? Yeah, it didn’t taste great the first time, but somehow it turned into the most delicious beverage in the world.
2 bitter melons
1lb ground chicken breast or pork
lemongrass, minced (15g)
1 teaspoon of xiao shing cooking wine
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
Bitter melon is featured in many Asian dishes, especially stuffed bitter melon. It isn’t difficult to prepare, and I decided to stray away from the usual ingredients that go into making it. Lemongrass and thyme seem to be good ingredients to balance out the flavor of the melon.
First off, cut off the upper third of the lemongrass stalk, and a bit off the bottom. Slice it into little discs and then mince very well. Save half of the minced lemongrass for some other time or dish. Mix the rest, along with the salt, olive oil, cooking wine, and dried time into the ground meat. Cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for three hours.
Cut off the ends of the bitter melons and slice them into 1-inch rings. Remove the inner seeds and inner tissue with a spoon. Add the bitter melon into boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from the water and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Lay the melon slices on a paper towel and pat dry.
This is optional, but it seems to help the ground meat adhere to the melon better: Coat the inside of the melon slices with a bit of raw scrambled egg.
Fill the melon slices with the ground chicken meat. Overstuff it a little bit because the meat will shrink a bit when it cooks.
Heat up a non-stick pan at low-medium heat. Add in a bit of cooking oil. When the oil is ready, add the stuffed melons and cover. Cook for 4 minutes, remove the cover, flip to the other side, and cover again for another 4 minutes. Make sure the chicken is cooked throughout. On average, 4 to 4.5 minutes per side seemed to work for me.