Looking for a delicious bitter gourd recipe? Here it is!
Bitter gourd is a tropical vegetable which had historically been eaten only in Southern part and islands of Japan. Thanks to the discovery of its rich nutrients like vitamin C & B, bitter gourd is now available in any supermarket throughout Japan.
The most popular way to eat bitter gourd in Japan is the Okinawan style stir-fry – champuru. Bitter gourd champuru is typically made with bitter gourd, firm Okinawan tofu (shima-dofu), eggs and fatty pork, but to make it vegan, I’m simply taking out eggs and pork from the recipe.
One of the reasons why eggs and fatty pork are used for this dish is because stir frying with protein and fat can soften the bitterness of the bitter gourd. I actually love the bitter taste, but it could be an acquired taste. So, here are some recommended ways to soften the bitterness.
First, the white spongy part inside the bitter gourd is quite bitter, so you can try to remove it as much as you can with a spoon.
Second, before you stir fry, you can massage the bitter gourd with salt and let it sit for a while. Third, you can slice the bitter gourd really thin (much thinner than mine). Fourth, if you are really adamant about minimizing the bitterness, you can then lightly boil the bitter gourd before stir frying. OK, now you have a not-so-bitter bitter gourd;)
To make a successful stir fry dish with tofu, it’s important to take extra steps to remove moisture from the tofu. As the traditional recipe calls for, it’s best to use an extra firm tofu here so it doesn’t crumble away in the process of stir frying.
I like to start my champuru with frying tofu on low heat until the sides are brown and crispy. This not only ensures that tofu pieces remain nice and firm but also locks in flavors and any residual moisture inside.
After tofu is ready, add sliced ginger, bitter gourd and salt, and stir fry for few minutes. Bitter gourd shouldn’t be thoroughly cooked at this stage as that would make it too soft and not very crunchy at the end.
Add in rinsed and drained sprouts, and immediately put on the lid to steam for a few minutes. Sprouts release a lot of moisture so make sure you add them at the end to avoid overcooking.
The last stage is to kick up the heat to high and drizzle some soy sauce. Stir fry until you start to smell the soy sauce browning (we call this process “burning the soy sauce”).
That’s it! This dish goes very well with Japanese sticky rice. Bon appetit!