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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dinner Tonight: Bitter Melon w/ Egg Whites and Black Beans




I really have been trying to take advantage of all of the ethnic food stores in my area lately particularly the ones of the Asian variety. In the past few months I've tried things from fermented tofu to pickled mustard greens. Some of these ingredients are an acquired taste. I tend to enjoy exotic flavors though.

One product I've tried several times recently is the Bitter Melon. This is a vegetable native to Asia that is used in many dishes and also as a alternative medicine in the far east. It resembles a lumpy cucumber and as the name implies is very bitter. How bitter? Well lets just say it makes Broccoli Rabe which some consider to be bitter taste like a jelly bean in comparison. It's so bitter and odd tasting that I can't resist its flavor. Its fascinates me.

The Bitter Melon dish I am presenting on this blog might look simple and but it actually took me a few times to get right. I made the bitter melons with egg whites and black beans. Mixing eggs with dishes in Asian cuisine is very appetizing in my opinion. Eggs provide a neutral flavor and a unique texture. They are also very high in protein which makes them a good meat substitute. Eggs are also high in cholesterol which is way I only choose to utilize egg whites in this dish.

The black beans are actually fermented soy beans. If you eat Chinese food you have probably seen or tasted dishes with Black Bean sauce. They have a have a salty and earthy taste which I covet and it compliments ts many things from chicken to seafood. In my research I have read the bitter melons are often paired with black beans so I decided to give it a try.

1 large bitter melon
2 tspns black beans(fermented soy beans)
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 tspn grated ginger
3 egg whites
1 tspn low sodium soy sauce
2 tblspns cooking oil
dash of pepper
dash of chili sauce(optional)

Chop off both ends of the bitter melon and slit it lengthwise. With a spoon gently remove the seeds and the pith from the vegetable and discard. Cut into pieces about a quarter inch thick. To remove some of the bitterness I added the pieces to boiling water and blanched them for 2 minutes then quickly put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This step is optional but if you never tried bitter melon before you may want to do this.

Add the black beans,garlic and ginger to a bowl. With the bottom of a fork mash them together until it forms a paste.

In another bowl whisk in the soy sauce and chili sauce(if using) into the egg whites.

Heat the oil in a skillet(I used a nonstick because I feel more comfortable cooking eggs in nonstick but this is optional) and heat the oil. Try to get the oil very hot. Add the black bean mixture and stir around for 30 seconds or so. Add the bitter melon to the skillet(after it was removed from the ice water and dried off) and mix with well with the black beans mixture. Grind some fresh pepper and set the heat to low and cover for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes is up remove the bitter melon from the skillet. If need be add more oil to the skillet and scramble the eggs. After the eggs are done add the bitter melon back to the skillet and mix it well with eggs. Remove and serve.

Servings: One main course or a side dish for two.

Tips:

* You can use whole eggs if you want for this dish

*I omitted salt from this dish because there is already salt in the black beans and soy sauce.

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