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Tuesday, 29 June 2010



hi kirk
bittermelon is one of my favorite vegetables. it's a staple in pinakbet and i also love it sauteed with onions, garlic, tomatoes and eggs. funny thing, my mom never salted or peeled the bittermelong or took out the pith. she left it all in! my bro, sis and i grew up loving bittermelon while my husband hates it.

your dish with the lily bulbs and gingko nuts sounds quite interesting; i've never tasted the last two ingredients.


Hi Kirk, my uncles back home used to eat Goya bitter melon sashimi style. Sliced thin and raw with a dab of shoyu. I preferred it stir-fried with spam and tofu though.. :) The bonito flakes and eggs dropped at the end also helped to cut the bitterness.


bitter melon can lower blood sugar.


hi kirk! we soak the cut bittermelon in ice water for 20 minutes before using it, that seems to cut the bitterness enough for me--maybe not enough for you!

do you think that by shaving the pith you might be taking away whatever might be considered healthful in the bittermelon? i usually find the most distasteful thing is usually what makes it effective--like the goo in natto or even how most of the nutrients in fruit are the skin.


love bittermelon and hope that THIS year, I will get some big enough to harvest! love the ways you cooked this!

Yet another Pam

You're in California, source of all produce! How can you not find fresh lily bulb? I can get it out here in Boston under the Japanese name, yurine, but usually it's in a package of at least six bulbs.

I once had a very nice cold salad of bitter melon dressed in sesame oil, and it was only a little more bitter than a strong cup of black coffee. I've always wanted to know how to prepare it.

Now I want to cook this, just to learn about bitter melon and lily bulb.


I'm in the not-so-crazy-about-bittermelon camp. My mom usually did the cross-slicing and removing the innards; I don't remember salting, rinsing or blanching (obviously, I have never prepared bittermelon myself). We usually had it stir-fried with black bean sauce.

The only bearable way for me to eat bittermelon was when it was stuffed with ground pork. Bittermelon is kind of pretty when you slice it into rings.

I also remember drinking a tea made with dried bittermelon; it was supposed to be good for a sore throat.


Looks so healthy! I smelled fresh ginko nuts one time... you're right... not the greatest smell in the world. But pretty tasty cooked up. Where'd you find the dried lily bulbs?


I really like bittermelon. I don't think my mom ever does salting or anything to remove any bitterness. I was going to suggest what Sandy said with the ground pork. My mom makes a soup where you stuff ground pork in the bittermelon. When it's cooked in soup, the bittermelon loses a lot of its bitterness. And the pork tastes sweet when eaten with the bittermelon. Did you find the bittermelon to be less bitter in China? My parents used to talk about how bitter the bittermelon was in Taiwan, but when we ate it, it was surprisingly not bitter. Even my siblings who don't usually eat bittermelon, were able to eat the ones in Taiwan.


Thanks for this post! My parents use to try to make me and sis eat bittermelon when we were kids and to this day, I cringe when i see the melon anywhere (at a store, menu, anything and everything). I know it's supposed to be good for you but just could never get past the taste. So i will try your 'un-bitter-rizing' technique and see how it goes.
Much thanks!


What do you recommend for good sea salt?


yum...bittermelon lover her! my father, of pure chinese ancestry (now deceased) was the cook in my family and one of his creations was stuffed bittermelon. it was simple....bittermelon cylinders (about 2 inches in length, hollowed out), stuffed with a mixture of porkhash and canned japanese sanbai zuke vegetables, some egg to bind it, and steamed. after steaming, it was sliced into bite-sized circles. as we say in hawaii, "ono!" another "ono" bittermelon dish one of my co-worker's mother makes is namasu....salting the bittermelon pieces removes some of the bitterness if desired. it definitely has some health benefits; there was a recent documentary about the longevity of okinawans in okinawa attributed to their diet, and bittermelon was a key ingredient.


Hi CC - You know, I don't recall seeing lily bulb on any menu in San Diego..... I suspect that it may be one of those "seasonal" things, and you have to get lucky and ask.

Hi Dennis - In QingDao we had raw bittermelon, they dip theirs in honey!

Hi Liver - The Missus saw your comment and smiled. Coming from you, it must be true! BTW, my blood pressure has been lower by 20 points since we've returned!

Hi Santos - That might be true, but in China, they do scrape away the pith..... unless the bittermelon is red and ripe.

Hi Kat - I can't wait to see how your garden is doing!

Hi Pam - I don't think there's enough of a demand in San Diego for stores to stock it. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled when back in LA.

Hi Sandy - I never liked bittermelon until this trip.

Hi Liz - I bought the dried lily bulb at Thuan Phat, same with the canned ginko nuts. For some reason, I'm finding a better variety of things at Thuan Fat nowadays.

Hi Kirbie - We both thought that the bittermelon in China was not as bitter, and even had some sweet tones to it. As for the stuffed bittermelon, I've had that a few times, but really didn't care for it much.

Hi Faye - Please let me know how it turns out.

Hi Soo - A good place to start would be Zion Market. There's a aisle full of different salts. I'd get something that's not ground too fine, and looks light and almost flakey.

Hi ahfook - I've had stuffed bittermelon, and never really took to it. But the namasu is something I need to try.


Hi Kirk, I just want to say that occasionally I can find fresh lily bulbs, in packs of 5 or 6 at 99 Ranch Market in the refrigerated section (usually near the Japanese steamed fish cakes, za tsai, bamboo shoots area). I would give them a 15-20 minute soak in water, then discard the water, just to get rid of some of the sulphites they use to keep the lily bulbs from darkening. It almost makes me want to find a good gardening place and just ask if they have fresh lily bulbs. Wouldn't that be nice for a change.


Hi Tenjo - Thanks so much for the heads-up! We actually bought some in LA yesterday. Peeled and soaked, they were delicious with bittermelon.

Jeff C

followed up on your recent post of lily bulbs (july '10). Saw this recipe here. Never thought to shave the bitter melon. Supposedly the seeds are edible. The outer covering of the the seeds, the red portion are actually a little on the sweet side.
My grandmother who is 86 has bitter melon in her breakfast smoothie every day.
I know of another who juices one bitter melon a day. He says it got him to lose 30 pounds.


Hi Jeffrey - I do know that when the middle of the bittermelon starts turning red, it gets to be much sweeter. I don't know if I'm ready for a bittermelon smoothie though.....

boston thai food

I would love to try to cook this.


Hi BTF - This is just a basic stir fry.... it should be no problem at all.

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