Ampalaya or bitter gourd is probably number one on children’s list of no-way-I-will-eat-that food for some reasons. For one it is a vegetable, two, ampalaya will not be called bitter gourd/melon for nothing, it is bitter; and three, moms always say it’s good for them.
It’s not easy to make my kids like vegetables especially my oldest. She eats them alright but not without the groans. She doesn’t even like carrots but as her mom, I make sure she gets her fair share of veggies everyday. Now for someone who doesn’t like her veggies, she eats a lot of this dish, sautéed ampalaya which makes me happy, of course, so I make this often.
I didn’t like ampalaya too as a kid, I have come to like it and realized the healthy benefits of vegetables as I was growing up. Adding pork to this vegetable makes it taste really good.
My mom used to prepare this dish by soaking the slices of bitter gourd in a little water and lots of sea salt just for a few minutes; she would then rinse it and squeeze it dry before cooking it. This is supposed to take away the bitterness but I always wondered whether this also takes away the vitamins and minerals.
The water it’s been soaked in always turns into bright green and I was worried about that but she said (mom) it’s necessary or the ampalaya will be too bitter. But I have found a way of cooking ampalaya without resorting to my mom’s method no matter how effective it is in taking the bitterness out. I didn’t know where I got this tip,I may have picked it from a local cooking show.
Anyway the trick is simple: Wash the ampalaya before slicing and do not stir once it’s been added to the pan. Works every time, I even told my mom this tip and she gladly took it and apply it too.
Here’s how to cook sauteed ampalaya (bitter gourd):
wash and slice ampalaya/bitter gourd
saute garlic, onion, tomato and pork
add tomato paste and water, cook until pork is tender
lay the slices of ampalaya on top, don’t stir, cover..
when ampalaya is cooked, you may add one beaten egg at this stage, again do not stir. let it stand covered a few minutes to cook the eggs. Cool a little before serving.
RECIPE FOR SAUTEED AMPALAYA (BITTER GOURD)
250 g / 8 oz pork shoulder, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium ripe tomato, minced
2 medium ampalaya
salt and pepper
Wash the ampalaya thoroughly, slice it crosswise into two, then slice the cut pieces lenghtwise. With a teaspoon, scoop out the white part with seeds then slice thinly.
Heat a pan over medium high heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil or any cooking oil that you prefer. When the oil is hot enough, add the garlic, then the onions,followed by the diced tomato. Cook for a minute then add the pork, season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, then add about 2 cups of water.
Cover the pan with a lid and bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until the pork is tender and half or the water has evaporated.
Uncover pan, season with fish sauce or salt, stir then lay the slices of ampalaya on top. Do not stir from this point on. Let it cook covered until ampalaya is tender. Turn off heat, let it stand covered for a few minutes; give it a stir just before plating it.
Serve with hot steamed rice
note: you may add 1 beaten egg at the end if you like, just after the ampalaya is cooked. do not stir. Let it stand for a few minutes, now you may stir.