Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones

Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones is a great way to eat end-of-summer bitter melon. Bitter Melon is a superfood—one of the healthiest vegetables (fruits?) you can eat! Pork mellows out its strong flavor, and as we head into fall, this is the perfect transitional soup.  This is our second bitter melon recipe this summer. The fact Sarah had two bowls of this soup in one sitting is a true testament to how delicious it really is.  Cooking With What We Have on Hand With all the food we’ve been making for the cookbook photoshoots lately, I had some leftover rib bones trimmed from a few large slabs of pork belly. (You can bet that my Shanghai Braised Pork Belly recipe is going into the book!) They are decidedly un-photogenic, which means they were destined for the stock pot. We’ve also had a good streak of hot summer days, and my three bitter melon plants are producing at a good pace. So I thought it would be the perfect time to put together this Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones! The Beauty of Bitter Melon  Bitter melon doesn’t do much to sell itself with that name alone. I know it’s no crowd pleaser, but it’s one of our favorite summer produce items!  This time of year, the bitter melons are popping out of the garden and turning up in the Chinese markets in big numbers. It’s probably unimaginable that some of us are addicted to it, but we really do look forward to it every year! I’m sure Sarah mentioned numerous times already in her Bitter Melon with Eggs post that bitter melon is a superfood.  It detoxifies the body, helps lower blood pressure, and reduces inflammation. When combined with barley, another healthy food, this soup can also help to expel dampness, which according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the root to many of our health problems!  If you know how to handle bitter melon, the bitterness of it doesn’t hold you back. Like Chinese mustard greens, the bitter flavor mellows out when the melon is cooked for longer periods of time or when balanced with meat and bold flavors.  (Just think of our Beef with Bitter Melon and Black Bean Sauce!) The Art of Cantonese Soups  To some people who may not be familiar with Cantonese soups, they might say that they taste bland. They are definitely more delicate when compared to western soups, but bland isn’t the word!  On the contrary, the simplicity of a Cantonese soup allows the flavors of the various ingredients shine through. What’s more, the attention paid to a Cantonese soup is often in the medicinal properties of the broth, and restaurants often only serve the broth (rather than the meat and vegetables–though everything should be enjoyed in a home setting).  NOTE! Many Cantonese soups use pork bones or lean pork as a source of umami. But for protein, do feel free to substitute chicken if pork is not a part of your diet.  Bitter Melon Soup: Recipe Instructions Soak the pearl barley for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.  Soak the pork bones in cold water for 1-2 hours to purge them of impurities, changing the water once halfway through. Rinse the pork bones clean, using your hands to scrub them of any impurities and bone spurs. Transfer to a deep stock pot with just enough water to submerge them. Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, rinse the pork bones clean, discard the water, and rinse the soup pot clean.  Add the pork bones back to the stock pot, along with soaked barley, dates, 8 cups water and the ginger slices. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. While the soup is simmering, slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the white pith, which can be particularly bitter. Cut each half into large chunks. Set aside. After 2 hours of simmering, skim the fat off the surface of the soup. Add the bitter melon, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste before serving (you can also add MSG for extra oomph if desired—this is completely optional!). Serve with light soy sauce to dip the tender pork ribs into. Looking for more authentic recipes? Subscribe to our email list and be sure to follow us on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube! Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones is a delicious Cantonese-style soup with simple, pure ingredients. It's also easy to make at home! by: JudyCourse:SoupCuisine:Chinese serves: 6 Prep: 2 hours 15 minutes Cook: 2 hours 45 minutes Total: 5 hours IngredientsUS Customary – Metric InstructionsSoak the pearl barley for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside. Also soak the pork bones in cold water for 1-2 hours to purge them of impurities, changing the water once halfway through.Rinse the pork bones clean, using your hands to scrub them of any impurities and bone

Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones

Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones is a great way to eat end-of-summer bitter melon.

Bitter Melon is a superfood—one of the healthiest vegetables (fruits?) you can eat! Pork mellows out its strong flavor, and as we head into fall, this is the perfect transitional soup. 

This is our second bitter melon recipe this summer. The fact Sarah had two bowls of this soup in one sitting is a true testament to how delicious it really is. 

Cooking With What We Have on Hand

With all the food we’ve been making for the cookbook photoshoots lately, I had some leftover rib bones trimmed from a few large slabs of pork belly. (You can bet that my Shanghai Braised Pork Belly recipe is going into the book!)

They are decidedly un-photogenic, which means they were destined for the stock pot.

We’ve also had a good streak of hot summer days, and my three bitter melon plants are producing at a good pace.

So I thought it would be the perfect time to put together this Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones!

Chinese Bitter Melon Soup

The Beauty of Bitter Melon 

Bitter melon doesn’t do much to sell itself with that name alone. I know it’s no crowd pleaser, but it’s one of our favorite summer produce items! 

This time of year, the bitter melons are popping out of the garden and turning up in the Chinese markets in big numbers. It’s probably unimaginable that some of us are addicted to it, but we really do look forward to it every year!

I’m sure Sarah mentioned numerous times already in her Bitter Melon with Eggs post that bitter melon is a superfood. 

It detoxifies the body, helps lower blood pressure, and reduces inflammation. When combined with barley, another healthy food, this soup can also help to expel dampness, which according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the root to many of our health problems! 

Bitter Melon, Dates, Barley, and Ginger on white plate

If you know how to handle bitter melon, the bitterness of it doesn’t hold you back. Like Chinese mustard greens, the bitter flavor mellows out when the melon is cooked for longer periods of time or when balanced with meat and bold flavors. 

(Just think of our Beef with Bitter Melon and Black Bean Sauce!)

The Art of Cantonese Soups 

To some people who may not be familiar with Cantonese soups, they might say that they taste bland. They are definitely more delicate when compared to western soups, but bland isn’t the word! 

On the contrary, the simplicity of a Cantonese soup allows the flavors of the various ingredients shine through.

What’s more, the attention paid to a Cantonese soup is often in the medicinal properties of the broth, and restaurants often only serve the broth (rather than the meat and vegetables–though everything should be enjoyed in a home setting). 

NOTE!

Many Cantonese soups use pork bones or lean pork as a source of umami. But for protein, do feel free to substitute chicken if pork is not a part of your diet. 

Bitter Melon Soup

Bitter Melon Soup: Recipe Instructions

Soak the pearl barley for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside. 

Soak the pork bones in cold water for 1-2 hours to purge them of impurities, changing the water once halfway through.

Rinse the pork bones clean, using your hands to scrub them of any impurities and bone spurs.

Transfer to a deep stock pot with just enough water to submerge them. Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from the heat, rinse the pork bones clean, discard the water, and rinse the soup pot clean. 

Add the pork bones back to the stock pot, along with soaked barley, dates, 8 cups water and the ginger slices.

Blanched pork bones with barley, ginger, and dates in soup pot

Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.

While the soup is simmering, slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the white pith, which can be particularly bitter. Cut each half into large chunks. Set aside.

After 2 hours of simmering, skim the fat off the surface of the soup. Add the bitter melon, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Add salt to taste before serving (you can also add MSG for extra oomph if desired—this is completely optional!). Serve with light soy sauce to dip the tender pork ribs into.

Bitter Melon Soup with Pork
Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup

Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones

Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones is a delicious Cantonese-style soup with simple, pure ingredients. It's also easy to make at home!

Cantonese Bitter Melon Soup with Pork Bones

serves: 6

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Soak the pearl barley for at least 2 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside. Also soak the pork bones in cold water for 1-2 hours to purge them of impurities, changing the water once halfway through.

  • Rinse the pork bones clean, using your hands to scrub them of any impurities and bone spurs. Transfer to a deep stock pot with just enough water to submerge them. Bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, rinse the pork bones clean, discard the water, and rinse the soup pot clean.

  • Add the pork bones back to the stock pot, along with soaked barley, dates, 8 cups water and the ginger slices. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours.

  • While the soup is simmering, slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and scrape away all of the white pith, which can be particularly bitter. Cut each half into large chunks. Set aside.

  • After 2 hours of simmering, skim the fat off the surface of the soup. Add the bitter melon, cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste before serving (you can also add MSG for extra oomph if desired—this is completely optional!). Serve with light soy sauce to dip the tender pork ribs into.

nutrition facts

Calories: 270kcal (14%) Carbohydrates: 11g (4%) Protein: 14g (28%) Fat: 19g (29%) Saturated Fat: 6g (30%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g Monounsaturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 64mg (21%) Sodium: 278mg (12%) Potassium: 407mg (12%) Fiber: 3g (12%) Sugar: 2g (2%) Vitamin A: 269IU (5%) Vitamin C: 48mg (58%) Calcium: 36mg (4%) Iron: 1mg (6%)