Ginisang Ampalaya (Sauteed Bitter Melon)

Ampalya or Bitter Melon is a seriously Asian vegetable. You either love it or hate it ! As the name suggests it has a very bitter taste. As a child I was not really fond of eating ampalaya, but was taught to eat what was served at the dinner table. I remember trying to drown it’s bitter taste by eating more rice than ampalaya or taking a sip of water for every spoonful of it. Now that I’m an adult I have learned to love it and regularly makes this dish for my family.

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Ampalaya is grown widely in Asia, Africa and the Carribean. The Chinese believes that it has a cooling property and is commonly eaten in the Summer. It’s also known for it’s medicinal qualities. In the Philippines studies have shown that it can help control sugar levels for those with diabetes.

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There is a way to somewhat lessen the bitter taste of ampalaya before cooking. To do this, first cut the ampalaya in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon, try to scrape off as much of the pith as you can and rinse with water. Slice the ampalaya into thin wedges and place in a bowl. Add water and a handful of salt let the ampalaya soak in this solution for 15-30 minutes. After soaking, you then drain and rinse it well and try to squeeze as much liquid from it as you can.

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To make this dish, heat a pan and add 1-2 tbsp of oil. Saute minced garlic, finely chopped onions and diced tomatoes until everything is softened. Add your ampalaya and give it a few stirs. Add 1/2 – 1 cup water depending on how much sauce you want in your dish. Season with salt and pepper or in my case I add I tbsp of fish sauce to give it more depth in flavor. Cover and simmer until vegetables are crisp tender, do not overcook. Add a beaten egg on top and stir to scramble the egg and coat the vegetables. You can serve this as a side dish or main course.

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Pinakbet (Filipino Mixed Vegetables)

I grew up eating the Tagalog version of Pinakbet. This is a mix of different vegetables consisting of chinese eggplant, okra, bitter melon, long beans, calabaza and tomatoes with the addition of shrimps. This is usually flavored with bagoong (shrimp paste). There is also the Ilocano version where they use fermented fish sauce and ginger as flavoring and everything is just layered and not sautéed. Note: Metro Manila where I came from is part of the Tagalog region. Philippine cooking is very much regional and each has their own way of cooking thus creating their own distinct flavor.

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For this recipe, I sautéed onions, garlic and tomatoes in a little oil. Then I layered my vegetables starting with the longest to cook, calabaza, long beans, okra, bitter melon and eggplant. I added a tablespoon of shrimp paste to taste and ground pepper.

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I let it simmer over low heat until veggies are crisp tender. I did not stir this but just shake the pan to evenly distribute the seasonings and mix the vegetables. This help the veggies not lose it’s shape and avoid getting mushy. No shrimps were added in this recipe since I did not have any on hand.

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Filipino Chop Suey

There is American Chinese Chop Seuy and then there is Filipino Chop Seuy (Tsapsuy). This dish obviously has Asian influence. I am not exactly sure when this was introduced to the Philippines. As our history books says Filipinos were already trading with Chinese merchants as early as the 9th century even before the country was colonized by Spain. This is mainly why Philippine cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese culture, not only in name and ingredients but in the manner of cooking as well.

I have made Chop Seuy countless of times and I have never use the same exact ingredients. I like to mix and match different vegetables not only for color and texture but also based on what I have in my crisper.

This a a stir fried dish of vegetables with the addition of meat (chicken, shrimp, beef or pork). For this recipe I used carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, and snow peas. You may also use broccoli, red and green bell peppers, baby corn and zucchini to name a few. You sautee minced garlic and onions and then you add your choice of meat. Let meat cook until tender. Then add you vegetables beginning with the ones that takes longer to cook. Season with salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of oyster sauce. The vegetables usually releases it’s own liquid so it’s up to you to determine if you need to add more water to the dish. Some like to thicken the sauce with a slurry of water and cornstarch.

I made this for our dinner last night.

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