Quiz: Which bitter gourd would you choose that is less bitter – left or right? (Answer below.)
It turns out that grandma was right – bitter gourd is good for you! Long recognised by the Chinese for its medicinal properties, the bitter gourd is now being classified as a cancer-fighting disease-busting superfood. If that’s not enough to convince you, there is an old Chinese proverb “吃得苦中 苦，方为人上人” that says that whoever can stomach bitter foods (like bitter gourd) can take hard knocks in life and will be able withstand adversity against all odds.
In this article, I have compiled some ‘common knowledge’ tips on how to choose bitter gourd, and how to prepare it for cooking to reduce the bitterness and make it easier on the palate!
Choosing Bitter Gourd
- The more mature the bittergourd, the more bitter it is. Young bittergourd should be light green in color and thick, and its seeds are usually white. When the bittergourd ripens and matures, it will turn reddish-orange color, and the seeds will become bright orangey. Once this is happens, the bittergourd will be very bitter.
- Choose bittergourd which has grooves that are far apart (right hand side) and not the one with very close wrinkled grooves (left hand side). There you have it – did you manage to guess correctly?
- Choose the half-ripened ones that are firm, unblemished and without bruises or dents.
- Don’t buy the short, dark green and very wrinkly bittergourds. These are extremely bitter and are used more as a herb.
Preparing Bitter Gourd
- Cut off both tips of the bittergourd and then cut it half lengthwise.
- Scrape out all the seeds and as much of the pith as you can with a metal spoon. Removing the pith of the bitter gourd helps to reduce the bitterness. Note: the bitterness can only be reduced but cannot be removed completely.
- Then cut it into slices and put it into a big bowl. You can slice into larger pieces or thinner strips, depending on the recipe.
- Add 1 TBsp salt in the bittergourd and gently toss up a few times until it is limp. Be careful not to break it up to pieces. Leave it for 15-20 mins.
- The salt is added to the bittergourd before washing to extract the bitterness from the bitter gourd and also to soften it.
- Discard the juices from the bittergourd as it is really bitter.
- Make sure all the bitter juices are squeezed out from the bitter gourd and that you rinse it through many times, otherwise the dish will end up too salty.
See my recipe: Stir-fried Beef Slices with Bitter Gourd.