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Pork With Bitter Melon

This bitter melon recipe pairs two strong flavors – Chinese black beans and bitter melon, a vegetable with a strong chalky flavor. Bitter melon is a bit of an aquired taste – parboiling makes it less overpowering.

Pork with bitter melon could serve 3 to 4 as part of a multicourse meal, or make a main meal for 2 when served over rice.

* 1 pound bitter melon
* 1/2 pound lean pork
* 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
* 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
* 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
* Pinch of freshly ground black or white pepper
* 1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1/2 cup chicken broth
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
* 1 tablespoon Chinese salted black beans
* 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
* 1 – 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil, as needed
* 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
* Salt or pepper to taste, optional


Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Cut the ends off the bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise (do not peel). Remove the seeds and pith from the middle of the melon with a small spoon. Cut the melon diagonally into thin, 1/4-inch slices.

Place the sliced bitter melon in the boiling water and parboil until it is just tender (2 – 3 minutes).Drain.

Cut the pork across the grain into very thin, 1/8-inch thick slices that are 1 1/2 – 2 inches long. Place in a bowl and add the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine or sherry, pepper, and cornstarch, stirring to combine and adding the cornstarch last. Let the pork stand while preparing the other ingredients.

In a small bowl, combine the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon sherry. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water. Rinse the black beans to remove excess salt. Mash the beans with the side of a cleaver or the back of a spoon. In a small bowl, stir together the beans and chopped garlic with a small amount of water.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a preheated wok. When the oil is hot, add the bean/garlic mixture. Cook, stirring, for about 15 seconds until aromatic, then add the pork. Stir-fry for 2 – 3 minutes, until the pork turns white and is nearly cooked. Remove the pork from the pan.

Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons oil in the wok, as needed. When the oil is hot, add the bitter melon. Stir-fry for a minute, then pour in the chicken broth mixture. Add the pork back into the pan, stirring to mix everything together. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.

Re-stir the cornstarch/water mixture. Push the other ingredients to the sides of the wok and add it to the chicken broth in the middle of the wok, stirring to thicken. Stir everything together, stir in the sesame oil, and season with salt or pepper if desired. Serve hot.

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