Bitter gourd is a popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine. This vegetable (or fruit if you want to be precise) can be cooked in many ways. This bitter gourd soup recipe with salted vegetables is one of them.
In TCM, bitter gourd is considered a yin food (food with cooling properties). It can help to cool the body and reduce internal heat. Bitter gourd has many health benefits and is especially beneficial in the hot seasons. It is often used for medicinal purposes. Some of its health benefits include:
- Managing blood sugar levels and diabetes. Bitter gourd has at least 3 active substances which help to reduce blood sugar levels. (details here)
- Promotes good skin
- Reduce inflammation as bitter gourd has anti-inflammatory properties
- Inhibits cancer cell growth (details here)
As bitter gourd has numerous health benefits, it is often used as a home remedy by many cultures around the world. However, not many people enjoy eating bitter gourd due to its distinctive bitter taste. For some, it is an acquired taste.
To draw the bitterness from the bitter gourd, blanch the bitter gourd in boiling water for a few minutes. Then plunge in cold water before cooking. Slicing the bitter gourd very thinly before blanching may help too. But for this soup, I would prefer to cut the bitter gourd at an angle into large pieces. You can cut it into smaller pieces if you wish.
It is very common to add other ingredients into a bitter gourd soup to balance the bitter taste and make it more palatable. For instance, salted vegetables and dried scallops help to make this soup more appetizing. In another bitter gourd soup recipe, I added some pineapple and the resultant soup was very soothing, naturally sweet with slightly bitter undertones.
My kids love cranberry beans (珍珠豆) as they have a soft and creamy texture when cooked so I used them in this soup too. They look very pretty in their raw state but the color goes away with cooking and will eventually turn brown. I bought them fresh from the market and it only took about half an hour for the beans to cook. You may also use dried cranberry beans but they would have to be soaked for several hours before cooking.
Bitter gourd can be cooked in many ways – steamed, deep-fried, boiled or braised. Here are some of my other favorite recipes for bitter gourd:
Braised chicken with bitter gourd
Steamed stuffed bitter melon
This soup is very hearty with the addition of soy beans and cranberry beans and appetizing despite the bitter taste. It is great with rice or on its own. Have a go at this bitter gourd soup recipe and let me know what you think in the comments below!
- 1 bitter gourd (500 g)
- 600 g pork ribs
- 200 g cranberry beans
- 6 cups water
- 80 g soy beans - soaked for 2 to 3 hours
- 4 dried scallops - soaked for 2 to 3 hours
- 100 g salted vegetables - soaked for 10 minutes
- Blanch pork ribs in boiling water for 2 minutes. Rinse and set aside. Cut bitter bitter melon lengthwise and remove seeds and white spongy part. Then cut into half lengthwise and slice diagonally. Cut salted vegetables and set aside.
- Optional step: Blanch bitter gourd in boiling water for a few minutes if you wish to reduce the bitterness. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
- Add soy beans, salted vegetables, pork ribs and dried scallops into a soup pot (I used a clay pot). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Add bitter gourd and cranberry beans and cook on low heat for another 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste if necessary.
2. Preparation time does not include soaking time.
I first learned about Bitter Gourd from my Philippines friend. She calls it Bitter Melon. After hearing about the benefits, I steam it with other vegetables and I also use it in my juicing. I didn’t know about the method for removal of the bitterness. I must try it. For me though, the benefits outweigh the taste. I will definitely try this recipe with the cranberry beans. These are some of my favorite beans.
It’s the same for me too. I find that the benefits of eating bitter gourd outweighs the taste so I usually don’t bother to reduce the bitterness. I hope that the tips on how to reduce bitterness in bitter gourd will be helpful for those who have not tried bitter gourd before and those who can’t stand bitter food. 🙂
Wow! This looks amazing. I have never heard of bitter gourd before, but feel this is something I should look into as cold and flu season is among us. I love your easy to follow recipes. I am also looking for new and exciting things that my children will eat that are healthy for them. Thank you for the recipe. I will be sure to try it!
Beverley Bell says
Not quite brave enough to try it (I have a sweet tooth) but your recipes sound very interesting and adventurous. Can you make the same soup with sweeter melons?
I have seen bitter gourd a few times and I have heard about its medicinal values but I had no idea that it was so versatile. I am a bit afraid of the bitterish taste but the recipes that you have posted are inviting. I will definitely try one.
When bitter gourd is used for cooking do you get the same medicinal value as if it was used in a drink?
Thanks for the post.
Yes, bitter melon has many health benefits but the bitter taste does take a bit of getting used to. The bitterness is what makes it good. I believe the medicinal values would be the same. It’s good to have variety in our diet. I have juice every now and then too although I do prefer to eat fruits whole.
Thanks Yvonne for another superb recipe. I will definitely give it a go. I have tried other recipe of Bitter Gourd in the past and found it really useful. However Soup is something I never thought of. I am sure it would provide numerous health benefits. I would like to ask though how would you overcome bitterness? Would cranberry beans subside it or should I try something else.
You may reduce the bitterness of bitter gourd with the following methods:
1. Remove all seeds and white pith from the bitter gourd and cut into slices. Salt the bitter gourd slices liberally. Set aside for about 30 minutes before pressing or squeezing the slices to remove moisture. Rinse off the salt before use.
2. Blanch bitter gourd in boiling water for a few minutes. Plunge into cold water before cooking.
Note that the above methods will not remove the bitterness entirely. I personally do not mind the bitterness that much and I believe that the health benefits of bitter gourd is in its bitterness. So I usually enjoy it as it is, bitterness and all.
This looks like a good one. I love bitter gourd after first trying it when I came to Asia. My wife usually makes it with egg, but we love to eat soup so I am sure she will like this recipe.
Coming from Philippines she also loves bak kut teh so with the addition of the pork ribs in this recipe, I am sure she will be all over this recipe. Thanks for adding the Print feature too, that makes it so much easier.
Regarding the health benefits of bitter gourd, I’m sure she said it was good for high blood pressure too but I may be mistaken.
I had no idea bitter gourd is good for inflammation. Maybe you can share a vegetarian recipe with bitter gourd in the future? 🙂
I’ll keep that in mind. I’ve been getting a lot of vegetarian recipe requests lately. 🙂