Bitter Melon (Fu Gua) With Egg Recipe

My new favorite vegetable has got to be the bitter melon. It’s a rather knobby looking green cylinder which is aptly named. It is utterly and truly bitter. I’ve had it in soups but prefer it best when paired with the sweetness of eggs in a simple stir-fry/omelet.

The bitter melon is common in Asian cooking and is grown in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. I think I’ve seen it in nearly every Asian market I’ve ever entered. Although there is scientific debate, bitter melon is believed to contain medicinal properties that can treat malaria, digestive issues, and diabetes. While I’m not eating it for any of these issues, there’s just something about the bitter flavor that lures me in (and, it’s always good to know that I’m combating malaria at the same time, just in case).

Bitterness is not a flavor that we often attribute with something we *want* to eat. Personally, bitter flavors always remind me of when I couldn’t swallow as aspirin as a child and it would begin to melt on my tongue. Yuck. I shudder just thinking about it. Given my aversion, it’s so surprising to me that I’ve really grown to love this vegetable.

Joe’s mom has made bitter melon for me a few times since arriving in Vancouver and she was surprised to find a Caucasian who liked it so much. I decided to try making it myself last week. I’ve now made it twice already. Fortunately, bitter melons are easily found in Asian markets and are reasonably priced so it makes for an affordable dish.

To make this dish, I cut off the ends of the melon, then sliced lengthwise down the center. The inside is a spongy pith with large dark seeds. Use a spoon to scoop this out and discard. Slice the melon crosswise into thin slices (1/8″).

Heat a pan with 2 tablespoons oil and add bitter melon. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until the vegetable just begins to soften. Pour 2-4 beaten eggs (depending on how egg-y you’d like it — in my photos I only used 2 eggs and prefer it with 4). You can sprinkle with a couple teaspoons of soy sauce if you like. Allow the egg to get firm on the bottom before trying to flip the omelet. It doesn’t need to remain in one piece (and likely won’t), so don’t get upset as it crumbles apart.

My photo does not do this justice. You see, I messed around with the egg mixture and shouldn’t have. I thinned it out with some broth thinking it would be nice and fluffy … instead, the eggs didn’t hold their shape and it became a bit sloppy looking. It still tasted ok but I don’t recommend it. I’ve made it again since this attempt and didn’t mess with the eggs, and it turned out much better.

I served this as a side dish along with rice and sticky spare ribs (coming later this week). The melon’s bitterness matches nice with the sweet egg. You get a bitter/sweet flavor in every bite which I really really like.

If you decide to try it, you’ll need to have an open mind :-) I can imagine many wrinkled noses around the dinner table if you aren’t fully prepared to accept the bitterness (i.e. don’t waste your time trying to convince your kids). But, it’s worth a try nonetheless!

Here are others who are eating Bitter Melon:

Bittermelon and Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce @ House of Annie
Mama’s Ampalaya @ [eatingclub] Vancouver
Chinese Bitter Melon Stir-Fry @ Chubby Panda
Grilled Bitter Melon, Mango, and Tomato Salad @ Burnt Lumpia
Bitter Melon Soup @ HolyBasil

Bitter Melon on Foodista

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  1. So interesting! I’ve seen bitter melon in the Asian grocery store, and never dared try it. But this simple recipe just might change my mind, especially because I’ll eat anything with eggs!

  2. I’ve had bitter melon stuffed with pork a a Vietnamese restaurant and I was surprised by it’s wonderful flavour. I like the idea of making it into an omelette. Can’t wait for the ribs recipe!

  3. No way, Allen. New favorite vegetable? Whoa!!! The funny thing is, I try it once a year to see if my taste buds suddenly can take it, because my parents love it so much. But noooope… It’s too bitter for my infantile buds. Then again even coffee is too bitter for me :( (Maybe I can just pretend I’m a supertaster) Kudos to you for being more Filipino than I, though! ;)

  4. I absolutely love bitter melon. My mom, being the attentive mother she is, will make this for me at least once a week in an omelet. I’d eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner (I’ve since then have had to convince her to half the yolks, since I eat it so frequently). I love the bitter-salt combo.

  5. My filipino/swede children who have not been to the Philippines always look forward to this with delight! Even DH loves this!

    For those who would like a less bitter taste, try soaking sliced bitter melon in cold water with some salt (about 1/4 cups will do). Let stand for 10-15 minutes and squeeze the water off the slices. The salt draws away some of the bitterness and squeezing them helps even more. Rinse and cook as usual.

  6. The bf bought a fu gua a couple weeks ago, and I didn’t know what to do with it, so we eventually had to toss the thing. Too bad they didn’t last longer! Well, next time I know to cook it with eggs.

    I had always heard that there was a salting / brining method to decrease the bitterness. Have you heard of this?

  7. hhhhmmmmmmm – we’ve been having bitter melon every week since we got our nanny, but i’ve never tried it with egg – i’ll get her to do it next time! we usually have it with minced pork throughout, or with pork spare ribs with black bean sauce! oh, and to the post above on the salting/brining – we do that too – just add salt to the chopped fu gua, let it sit, then rinse and squeeze dry with a paper cloth (or paper clothes, as it draws out a lot of moisture).

  8. Bitter melon (goya) is practically the “national” vegetable of Okinawa where my mom is from. Although I’m 100% Okinawan American, I can’t stand it! However, because you like it, you’ll live forever. No, really, forever. There was a book about them long living Okinawan folk and goya was mentioned as a possible reason. So, long life to you Allen!! :)

    (librarian geekiness: ISBN-13: 978-1400082001)

  9. I’m a Vancouverite currently living on the west coast of Ireland that loves Bitter Melon. This morning, I took the 2+ hour drive to Dublin just to get one and I did! So 5 hours in the car and 6 Euros later (about $11 Cdn) I got ONE Fou Gwa, I’m at home now getting ready to cook it!! I’m going to have it with my Taro chicken rice.

    Thanks for the recipe.

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