As fall kicks in here in San Diego and the temperature cools down, it always puts me in the mood for a warm bowl of soup. One of my first cravings is Canh Khổ Qua (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup). Call me strange but I find the bitterness quite refreshing. Especially after a long hot summer, a refreshing bowl of Bitter Melon Soup helps me gear up for the cooler months ahead.
Why Do People Enjoy Bitter Melon So Much?
For me, I grew up eating bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd) so frequently that I craved it when I moved away for college. My parents ate it for the taste, but also for the nutritional value.
For those who have never tried bitter melon, I have to admit, it can be an acquired taste. The bitterness isn't a long lasting, palate-destroying flavor. It feels light on the tongue, as if something is waking up your taste buds. It quickly goes away and doesn't leave a lingering bitter taste in your mouth. It's a bitterness that can be enjoyed.
What Are the Benefits of Bitter Melon?
Many Asian cultures and a few Western studies believe it helps with diabetes, lowers cholesterol and has cancer-fighting properties. It's also believed to help fight bacterial and viral infections, and may prevent obesity and heart disease. Although these claims may not be fully scientifically proven, what has been established is the fact that bitter melon is loaded with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.
Vietnamese Bitter Melon Soup Recipe - How to Stuff It
Prepare the bitter melon by trimming an inch off the ends, then cut the bitter melon crosswise in half. This makes it easier to hollow out when both ends are open. At this point, use a butter knife to scrape out the seeds and white membranes, leaving hollow tubes of bitter melon. You can do this from both ends to make it easier.
Use a spoon, or your fingers (which I prefer), stuff the pork mixture into the hollowed out bitter melons and push out any air pockets. Make sure to stuff all the way through until it comes out the other end. Use a butter knife to scrape the ends flat. Easy right? Simmer the stuffed bitter melons in a light broth and you have yourself an easy and nutritious soup.
When the weather is cool, do as I do and make Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua). Not only will it warm your soul, it'll nourish your body at the same time. If you like bitter melon as much as I do, check out my Stir Fried Bitter Melon recipe. Or for another heartwarming soup, check out my Winter Melon Soup recipe. It'll warm you to the core just like this one.
- 2 large (or 3 medium) bitter melons
- 1 quart chicken broth or pork broth
- 2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
Stuffing the Bitter Melon
- In separate bowls, soak the bean thread noodles and wood ear mushrooms (fungus) in warm water for 15 minutes until they're fully reconstituted.
- Drain the noodles in a colander and shake out the excess water. Coarsely chop the noodles into 0.5-1 inch lengths.
- Rinse the wood ear mushrooms, trim off the hard stems and thinly slice.
- In a bowl, combine all the ingredients for the FILLING and mix well.
- Trim about an inch off the ends of the bitter melons, then cut them in half crosswise.
- Use a butter knife to carve and scrape out the seeds and white membrane of the bitter melons. Scrape along the inside to remove as much of the white membrane as possible. You should end up with hollow tubes of bitter melon.
- Use a spoon or your fingers to stuff the bitter melons with the pork filling from one end to the other. Be sure to push out any air pockets. Use the butter knife to scrape the ends flat. Save any remaining pork mixture to add to the soup later.
Making the Soup
- In a pot, combine chicken broth, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and sugar and bring to a boil.
- If you have any extra pork mixture, add it now. Break it up in the soup with a ladle.
- Carefully add the stuffed bitter melons and allow the soup to return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the bitter melon is tender.
- Use a fine mesh strainer to skim off any scum or impurities on the surface of the soup.
- Slice the stuffed bitter melons into 1.5 inch thick pieces before serving.