Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce

This bitter melon stir-fry is flavorful and balanced with salty fermented black beans, meaty mushrooms, and sweet zucchini.  Unlike other well-known Chinese bitter melon dishes, like beef with bitter melon, bitter melon with eggs, and bitter melon pork bone soup, this recipe is my own creation and also happens to be vegan!  What Is Bitter Melon? Also known as bitter gourd, bitter melon is a green fruit related to other vining cucurbits like cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, and loofah. It is used across various Asian cuisines, including Southeast Asian and South Asian recipes.  There are several different varieties. We’ve seen spikier looking specimens in Indian groceries, while Chinese bitter melon varieties are lighter green and smoother.  The fruit is indeed bitter—even more than a bitter leafy green like broccoli rabe. It also has a firm, crunchy texture. You can cook it until completely soft, as it is in our Cantonese bitter melon soup, until crisp-tender, as in our bitter melon with eggs, or somewhere in the middle, like in our beef with bitter melon.   While bitter melon may not be everyone’s favorite produce item, it is INCREDIBLY good for you (check out this article about bitter melon in the National Library of Medicine!), and I happen to love it!  How to Cook Bitter Melon To prepare a bitter melon, you trim off the ends and slice it in half lengthwise. Inside, you’ll find seeds and a white pith (kind of like what you might see when you peel an orange).  This pith is more bitter than the fruit itself, so next, take a spoon and scrape out the seeds and as much of the pith as you can manage. Then it’s ready to slice and cook.  Cooking with bitter melon isn’t so much about hiding its bitter flavor (good luck with that!) as it is about balancing it.  Beef with Bitter Melon is probably the most ubiquitous Cantonese bitter melon dish, for good reason. The richness of the beef and the saltiness and savoriness of the fermented black beans offer a delicious contrast to the bitterness and freshness of the melon.  Another popular, perhaps more “advanced” combination is bitter melon with eggs. The bitterness of the melon is more prominent in this dish, but the buttery eggs and nutty sesame oil offer that point of contrast.  In this bitter melon stir-fry, however, I’m not using any meat or eggs! We had bitter melon in our garden this year, and when trying to figure out how to cook it one night, I realized we didn’t have any beef to prepare it with.  Instead, I decided to do a riff on beef with bitter melon, using fermented black beans and garlic, but instead of meat, I used diced mushrooms to add that savory element. I also balanced the dish with a zucchini from the garden, which added a mild sweetness to the dish.  Whether you’re vegan or not, this bitter melon stir-fry is a tasty, healthy vegetable dish. If you’re already part of the bitter melon fan club, give it a try for something a little different!  NOTE! In this recipe and others, we suggest blanching the bitter melon in boiling water with salt and baking soda. This can help reduce the bitterness slightly, but it’s an optional step!  Bitter Melon Stir-fry: Recipe Instructions To prepare the bitter melon, cut each melon in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape as much of the bitter white pith as you can. Then slice the melon on a 45-degree angle into thin slices. Prepare an ice bath and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the salt and baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for 1 minute, and use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the bitter melon to the ice bath. Drain and set aside. Now, make the sauce mixture by combining the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, white pepper, and water in a small bowl. Preheat your wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, and sear the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until they’re starting to turn tender and browned at the edges. Add the remaining oil, along with the garlic and black beans. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.  Increase the heat too high. Deglaze the wok with the Shaoxing wine. Then add the bitter melon and zucchini. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the sauce mixture, and stir everything well, until the bitter melon and zucchini are just tender. Serve immediately. Looking for more authentic recipes? Subscribe to our email list and be sure to follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube! 4.50 from 2 votes Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce This bitter melon stir-fry is flavorful and balanced with salty fermented black beans, meaty mushrooms, and sweet zucchini. It's also vegan! by: SarahCourse:VegetablesCuisine:Chinese serves: 4 Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 10 minutes Total: 30 minutes IngredientsUS Customary – Metric InstructionsTo prepare the bitter melon, cut each melon in half lengthwise, and use a spoon t

Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce

This bitter melon stir-fry is flavorful and balanced with salty fermented black beans, meaty mushrooms, and sweet zucchini. 

Unlike other well-known Chinese bitter melon dishes, like beef with bitter melon, bitter melon with eggs, and bitter melon pork bone soup, this recipe is my own creation and also happens to be vegan! 

What Is Bitter Melon?

Also known as bitter gourd, bitter melon is a green fruit related to other vining cucurbits like cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins, and loofah. It is used across various Asian cuisines, including Southeast Asian and South Asian recipes. 

There are several different varieties. We’ve seen spikier looking specimens in Indian groceries, while Chinese bitter melon varieties are lighter green and smoother. 

The fruit is indeed bitter—even more than a bitter leafy green like broccoli rabe. It also has a firm, crunchy texture. You can cook it until completely soft, as it is in our Cantonese bitter melon soup, until crisp-tender, as in our bitter melon with eggs, or somewhere in the middle, like in our beef with bitter melon.  

While bitter melon may not be everyone’s favorite produce item, it is INCREDIBLY good for you (check out this article about bitter melon in the National Library of Medicine!), and I happen to love it! 

How to Cook Bitter Melon

To prepare a bitter melon, you trim off the ends and slice it in half lengthwise. Inside, you’ll find seeds and a white pith (kind of like what you might see when you peel an orange). 

This pith is more bitter than the fruit itself, so next, take a spoon and scrape out the seeds and as much of the pith as you can manage. Then it’s ready to slice and cook. 

Cooking with bitter melon isn’t so much about hiding its bitter flavor (good luck with that!) as it is about balancing it. 

Beef with Bitter Melon is probably the most ubiquitous Cantonese bitter melon dish, for good reason. The richness of the beef and the saltiness and savoriness of the fermented black beans offer a delicious contrast to the bitterness and freshness of the melon. 

Another popular, perhaps more “advanced” combination is bitter melon with eggs. The bitterness of the melon is more prominent in this dish, but the buttery eggs and nutty sesame oil offer that point of contrast. 

In this bitter melon stir-fry, however, I’m not using any meat or eggs! We had bitter melon in our garden this year, and when trying to figure out how to cook it one night, I realized we didn’t have any beef to prepare it with. 

Instead, I decided to do a riff on beef with bitter melon, using fermented black beans and garlic, but instead of meat, I used diced mushrooms to add that savory element. I also balanced the dish with a zucchini from the garden, which added a mild sweetness to the dish. 

Whether you’re vegan or not, this bitter melon stir-fry is a tasty, healthy vegetable dish. If you’re already part of the bitter melon fan club, give it a try for something a little different! 

NOTE!

In this recipe and others, we suggest blanching the bitter melon in boiling water with salt and baking soda. This can help reduce the bitterness slightly, but it’s an optional step! 

Bitter Melon Stir-fry: Recipe Instructions

To prepare the bitter melon, cut each melon in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape as much of the bitter white pith as you can. Then slice the melon on a 45-degree angle into thin slices.

slicing bitter melons

Prepare an ice bath and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the salt and baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for 1 minute, and use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the bitter melon to the ice bath. Drain and set aside.

blanching bitter melon slices in water

Now, make the sauce mixture by combining the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, white pepper, and water in a small bowl.

Preheat your wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, and sear the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until they’re starting to turn tender and browned at the edges. Add the remaining oil, along with the garlic and black beans. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. 

stir-frying mushrooms, garlic, and black beans

Increase the heat too high. Deglaze the wok with the Shaoxing wine. Then add the bitter melon and zucchini. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. 

zucchini and bitter melon in wok

Add the sauce mixture, and stir everything well, until the bitter melon and zucchini are just tender.

bitter melon stir-fry with black bean sauce

Serve immediately.

4.50 from 2 votes

Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce

This bitter melon stir-fry is flavorful and balanced with salty fermented black beans, meaty mushrooms, and sweet zucchini. It's also vegan!

Bitter Melon Stir-fry with Black Bean Sauce

serves: 4

Ingredients

Instructions

  • To prepare the bitter melon, cut each melon in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape away any of the bitter white pith. Then slice the melon on a 45-degree angle into thin slices.

  • Prepare an ice bath and bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the salt and baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for 1 minute, and use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the bitter melon to the ice bath. Drain and set aside.

  • Now, make the sauce mixture by combining the oyster sauce, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, white pepper, and water in a small bowl.

  • Preheat your wok over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, and sear the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until they’re starting to turn tender and browned at the edges. Add the remaining oil, along with the garlic and black beans. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

  • Increase the heat too high. Deglaze the wok with the Shaoxing wine. Then add the bitter melon and zucchini. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.

  • Add the sauce mixture, and stir everything well, until the bitter melon and zucchini are just tender. Serve immediately.

nutrition facts

Calories: 148kcal (7%) Carbohydrates: 11g (4%) Protein: 6g (12%) Fat: 9g (14%) Saturated Fat: 1g (5%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g Monounsaturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0.03g Sodium: 837mg (35%) Potassium: 438mg (13%) Fiber: 4g (16%) Sugar: 3g (3%) Vitamin A: 317IU (6%) Vitamin C: 49mg (59%) Calcium: 31mg (3%) Iron: 1mg (6%)