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.
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.
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.
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.