Bitter Melon which is called ma ra in Thai is a very healthy versatile vegetable. Some say it is an acquired taste, but we love it. I also sometimes blanche slices of bitter melon in salted water and this removes much of the bitterness. The riper a bitter melon is IE pale green or yellowish the less bitter it will be. Do not blanche or cook very long as it will become mushy.
It is believed bitter melon helps regulate diabetics need for insulin and recent studies say bitter melon concentrate may help prevent breast cancer. Bitter melon is rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids, which are good for your health.
Bitter melon is wonderful in curries-just add the last few minutes. I also really enjoy bitter melon in soups and sliced raw in salads.
Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Gang Jueat Mara Koom)
2 medium sized bitter melons (ma ra) (about 1 pound total weight)
4 ounces ground lean pork or chicken
1 carrot, juilenned
1 small onion, large dice
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai chile, minced
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp fish sauce
3 cups chicken stock, bring to a boi
Mix garlic, chiles, fish sauce, and white pepper with ground meat until thoroughly combined.
Cut the melon in half across, using a teaspoon remove the seeds. Stuff the hollowed out melon with the meat mixture. Add carrot and onion to the boiling stock. Place the stuffed melon halfs into the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Using tongs remove the bitter melon halfs and slice into aproximately 3/4" slices or bite size.
Garnish with cilantro leaves, and serve with steamed Jasmine rice.
Bitter Melon (ma ra) is very easy to grow in your garden and has many great uses both raw for salads and in stirfries, soups and curries. Sow the seec in early spring. The plants are much like cucumbers and will grow to about 6 or 7 feet long.
Bitter melons come in various sizes and shapes.
My favourite of course is the Bangkok large variety.
Most Asian markets offer bitter melons year round.