Hi Guys! It’s really beginning to feel like summer in LA. I have mixed feelings about this. I love the idea of summer. I love the beach, bbq’s, going to a park to play bocce-ball, shaved ice….I love all that stuff. Things I’m not such a fan of: the heat, mosquitos, the heat, loads of “summer” kids everywhere (yep, I said it), the heat….do you see a pattern here? I wish I could have an amazing attitude about it, but man…nothing’s worse than sitting and doing absolutely nothing and sweating profusely…just because of the weather…and then having to peel yourself off a leather couch?…UGH. Can you tell I’m a little stressed about the heat? I would love to have a positive attitude about it, but I’m a̶ ̶b̶r̶a̶t̶ scared.
I think I was scarred the first year I lived in LA County, in Pasadena. It was so devastatingly hot and the wall a/c unit wasn’t doing the trick, so my boyfriend and I often found ourselves perusing the CVS up the block, for HOURS, just to take advantage of their central air…it was a sad time.
In a bit of irony, here’s a stir-fried bitter melon dish for you all today! :) Okay, this one isn’t so bad because although it uses high heat, it cooks up fast. Also, I always try to start the summer off with a healthy food kick (that usually lasts for about 3 days) and this year I’m doing it by cooking up a bunch of different veg. in a number of ways. I had always seen bitter melon at the market, but had never tried it. I assumed it would be bitter (duh, right?), but I didn’t realize just how bitter….My mistake for taking it home and trying to eat it like a raw cucumber. The second I took a bite it felt as if my cheeks were being sucked into my brain and my mouth immediately dried out.
One and a half days later I braved bitter melon again. I decided to stir fry it to remove some of the bitter taste (that was pretty much my only goal at that point). I used a combination of oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar to draw out the bitter and to impart other flavors to it. Success. The results were a still bitter, but a much more mellow tasting dish that was actually pleasant and developed the texture of a cooked summer squash, soft and juicy. Now I know fish sauce is really scary for some people (I can drink the stuff from the bottle, while the boyfriend gets one whiff and wants to vom then pass out), but thats okay! You can omit the oyster sauce and fish sauce and replace it with a red wine or sherry vinegar. You’ll get the same bitterness cutting effect without the fishy flavor. It’s really nice to have this dish with something slightly fatty like crispy pork belly because they balance each other nicely.
If you’re feeling bold or bored…or just trying to avoid the heat outside go peruse your local market and pick up that weird veg. that reminds you of an alien and try it out! It a scary veg. can be turned into something quite lovely! Enjoy! xx, Jenny
Stir Fried Bitter Melon
Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 dried Thai chile
1 shallot, minced
3 bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out and thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (can sub with 2 teaspoons honey)
salt and pepper to taste
thinly sliced green onions
micro greens, optional
1. Pour oils into wok or skillet and place over high heat.
2. Add chile and fry for 1 minute.
3. Add shallots and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add bell peppers and garlic and continue to sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
4. Pour oyster sauce over mixture and toss together. Sprinkle fish sauce and sugar over mixture and continue to sauté until sugar dissolves. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Sprinkle with green onions and micro greens (if using) and serve.