Bitter Melon

Last week, on my way to my office I passed by this view. Yummmm. Can I pick it up for dinner tonight? (just joking) It was such a beautiful medium sized bitter melon.

I lot of people in Japan enjoys growing this vegetable during summer. It’s pretty much easy to grow and their leaves gives beautiful shades to keep the house away from direct sunlight.

As an asian, I’ve grown up with these vegetable. My dad used to make me a soup out of it and it was sure very bitter. We stuff minced pork inside it (seed removed and stuff it in were the seed was) and simmer with other veggies until soft. To be honest, as a kid, I hated it! The bitterness was so nasty and I didn’t know why elders enjoyed such a nasty thing! But as time passed, myself being old now, I learned how to enjoy this vegetable and can’t wait for the summer to enjoy.

My most favorite dish made with bitter melon is called Goya Champuru. Goya = Bitter melon and Champuru = mix it up in a Okinawa dialect. So, Goya Champuru means, bitter melon stir fried with a mixture of tofu, egg & etc. This dish converted me from Bitter melon hater to dedicated lover.

Oh I love this dish so much. The bitterness of the goya, the burnt smokey pork belly, the softness and the sweetness of a good tofu, soy sauce, some tuna flakes, a hint of Chinese rice wine, a dash of a sesame seed oil, this dish is surely a match made in heaven ~~~~!

There are many many version of Goya Champuru but I’ll post mine.

Goya Champuru by Oranudh Syndicate

You will need:

  • 1 medium size bitter melon
  • 150g of pork belly sliced into 5mm thickness and 4cm length
  • 1/2 pack of a tofu (not the soft silken ones but the harder version)
  • 1 egg (beaten in a bowl)
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine ( can omit if you don’t have)
  • 1 tablespoon of soy-sauce ( may need more according to your taste)
  • a handfull of bonito flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil (optional)
  • a large wok (works better than a frying pan)


  1. Prepare the bitter melon by cutting the top and the bottom bit off, then cut them in half lengthwise, remove the seed by using a spoon to scrape it off, then cut them into 8mm thickness slices.
  2. Cut Tofu into small squares. You can cut them in 4 (place the tofu on your palm, cut them horizontally and vertically) then slice them sideway to make it thinner, by this, you should have 8 pieces.
  3. Heat up the wok, add a bit of oil (any oil), and neatly place the pork belly in the wok, make sure each pieces touches the wok. Let the pork belly release it’s fat and turn it around when you get a nice burnt color on both side.
  4. Remove the pork belly form the wok and set aside or, push the pork belly away from the center to the side of the wok and add all the tofu. Let the tofu grill in the pork belly fat and let it light burn on both side.
  5. Once the tofu are beautifully colored, lightly stir fried with the pork and then add the bitter melon.
  6. Lightly stir it (don’t over do it or you’ll mash up all the tofu into small bits) and add Chinese wine, a pinch of salt. Carefully toss it around and check if the bitter melon are cooked ( The color will be darker and a bit transparent when cooked).
  7. In the wok, push all the ingredients to the side and add the egg. Let the bottom part of the egg sets, then quickly stir all the ingredients together. Add soy-sauce and taste. If you want it to have a sharp salty taste, add more salt, if you want just a little more umami, add soy-sauce. Finish it with a teaspoon of sesame oil then turn the heat off.
  8. Place the Goya Champuru in a large plate and sprinkle it with bonito flakes. Enjoy!
The burnt tofu!
From top left clockwise: Nukazuke (Turnip, carrot, cucumber pickled in rice bran), Goya Champuru, rice and a cup of miso soup with tomato and shiso leaf.

Hope this post gave you a glimpse of a Japanese summer. The above menu was the meal of that day, Goya Champuru, miso soup with tomato & shiso leaf, homemade pickles (Nukazuke) and a bowl of rice.


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