Braised Pork Ribs and Bitter Gourd in Black Bean Sauce – salty fermented black beans act as a perfect foil to the bitter gourd in this flavorful dish.
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.
Black Bean Sauce
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 is 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.
How to Choose a Bitter Gourd or Melon
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 Braised Pork Ribs and Bitter Gourd in Black Bean Sauce 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 sand pot 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.
Tools Used in Making This Braised Pork Ribs and Bitter Gourd in Black Bean Sauce
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Braised Pork Ribs and Bitter Gourd in Black Bean Sauce
- 1 medium bitter gourd / bitter melon
- 2 lbs pork baby back ribs (cut into bite size pieces) (900g)
- ¾ cup water (180ml)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp fermented black beans (rinsed and drain)
- 2 red chilies (cut into small pieces)
- 2 inch ginger (peeled and cut into small pieces) (about 60g)
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ tsp sugar
- ¼ cup water (60ml)
- 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 draw out some of the bitter juices from the gourd. Rinse and drain.
- Combine all sauce ingredients in food processor and pulse till fine and combined. Remove and set aside.
- In a medium sized pan, heat vegetable oil. Stir in processed sauce mix 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.
Other Bitter Melons
September 26th, 2014
I recently discovered these yellow lantern-shape bitter eggplants at the farmer’s market in Minneapolis. Out of curiosity I brought some home. I cut one into thin slices and mix them into my veggie stir fry that evening. It was quite bitter but not as bitter as those little pea eggplants. Having tasted them, I figured that they would combine well with this braised pork ribs with black bean sauce.
I sliced 6 of the bitter eggplants thinly and salted them with kosher salt for several hours. This salting really helped to draw out some of those bitter juices. Combined with the braised pork ribs and black bean sauce, the eggplants had an almost bitter sweet taste.
NOTE: This post was updated on October 18th, 2013 with new pictures and September 26th, 2014 with the portion on bitter eggplants.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎