It’s Monday again and I hope you all had a great weekend. It was nice and quiet for us. I visited my local Asian market, scanning their shelves for specialty ingredients. In my last trip there I was able to get Chinese herbs for the Six Combination Soup. Always a joy to find ingredients to prepare some of dishes I miss from the old country. This time I was able to buy fermented black beans and bitter gourd.
While bottled black bean sauce is very convenient, I prefer to make my own using fermented black beans. Fermented black beans are made from salting and fermenting soy beans. Do not confuse them with dry black soy beans or turtle beans. The flavor of fermented black beans are sharp, pungent, salty, and somewhat bitter. They are commonly used to flavor stir-fry meat and vegetable dishes and combines particularly well with bitter gourd.
Bitter gourd or bitter melon comes in several varieties and differ in shape and bitterness. They have an oblong shape with ridges on the surface. The flesh is about a quarter to half inch thick with seeds and pith in the center. The Indian varieties are deep green in color with thin ridges while the Chinese bitter gourds are light green in color with wider ridges. Always choose the fruit with the palest shade of green and widest ridges. They are the least bitter.
Bitter gourd has a distinct bitter taste and you may wonder why people would want to eat this fruit. It is definitely an acquired taste but it is a taste that grows on you. I remember not liking it as a child but I really enjoy it now. It has a crunchy texture similar to that of a cucumber or bell pepper. Bitter gourd is said to have many medicinal values and is used as a folk medicine for diabetes.
This dish is very similar to the steamed pork ribs in black bean sauce found in dim sum restaurants except that here, I braised the pork ribs and added the bitter gourd. I used a Chinese sandpot for braising but you can definitely use a regular pot for this dish. For more on claypots, do check out my post Claypot Chicken Rice for the different types available out there and their uses.
- 2 lbs (900g) baby back ribs, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 medium sized bitter gourd
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- ¾ cup water
- 2 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and drain
- 2 red anaheim chilies, cut into small pieces
- 2-inch knob ginger, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ tsp sugar
Cut bitter gourd in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and then slice crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Sprinkle a tablespoon coarse salt onto sliced bitter melon and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. This is to remove some of the bitter juices from the gourd. Rinse and drain.
Combine all sauce ingredients in food processor with ¼ cup water and pulse till fine and combined. Remove and set aside.
In a medium sized pan, heat oil. Stir in processed sauce and fry for 3 to 4 minutes until fragrant. Add pork ribs and continue to fry for another 3 to 4 minutes until opaque and coated with sauce. Pour in water and allow it to simmer on low for 45 minutes.
Finally, add bitter gourd and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes.
The sauce should be nice and thick by now. Turn off heat and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 8)