Ampalaya / Bitter Gourd / Bitter Melon

Below 30 years of age, I would have gone hungry or at least skipped a ampal1meal rather than eat ampalaya voluntarily. I have traumatic memories of staring at a dish of thinly sliced (like that would make the stuff less bitter!) half circles of ampalaya sauteed with ground meat and lots of eggs at the center of our lunch table and thinking… WHERE IS THE BLOODY KETCHUP??? Sorry, but this was torture on a platter. Bring on the whips, thank you. Blindfold me and place a large ampalaya in my hands and witness near instantaneous apoplectic seizures! Above 30, my reactions have changed little, though I now eat ampalaya as part of a good pinakbet – so this post is a stretch for Marketman, a true labor of love for readers who are not allergic to the knobbly, bitter and wicked ampalaya…

Ampalaya or Bitter Gourd (Momordica charantia), thrives ampal2in the tropics throughout the world. Accoding to Alan Davidson, it is believed to have originated in India but yet it thrives in Africa, South America, China and Southeast Asia. Said to have an addictive quality in the same manner as chilli, the bitter and intense taste takes some getting used to. Having said that, hundreds of millions of folks around the world love this vegetable. There are several types of ampalaya but the two most common ones in the Philippines are the “Chinese” variety which tend to get rather big, have a light to darker green complexion and large “veins” or knobs on them. And the “Indian” version tends to have finer bumps and a greener skin. They look like large versions of these mini ampalayas pictured here.

Something so intense tasting does apparently have tremendous ampal3mineral and health benefits…no pain, no gain I suppose. Ampalaya is one of those vegetables that the market will ALWAYS have as it seems to thrive throughout the year and in abundance. If you were a bug would YOU sink your teeth into a large ugly bitter fruit??? There are all kinds of suggestions for “de-bittering” ampalaya like soaking it in water, rubbing it with salt, soaking in salt water, parboiling it before sautéing, etc. but it seems that none of these really markedly reduce the bitter taste. Like chilli, you just gotta learn to love it and when you do, you can’t do without it. Thanks, but I think I still fall into the “I’d rather take a vitamin pill” category! If any readers have a terrific recipe for sauteed ampalaya with beef/pork and eggs I would be interested as I will make one last attempt to get to know this vegetable amicably…


21 Responses

  1. I don’t generally like ampalaya either, but there is one instance where I just have to have it – as an (Ilocano?) ampalaya salad paired with lechon kawali or bagnet. It’s made up of finely sliced half-circles of ampalaya, minced onion, diced tomatos, grated ginger, and bagoong isda. You can also add some chili to give it a little kick. The combination of flavors while biting down on the crispy skin… sarap.

  2. though i’ve discovered your site 3 or 4 months ago, this is my first attempt to send you a comment, as “ampalaya is one of my fave”. here in dubai, we use the Indian variety, which has a finer bumps or “mas kulubot” as we call it here, the color is really dark green and really bitter. so what i usually do after slicing it thinly, I sprinkle it with iodized salt, leave it for a few minutes and rinse it with warm water, without squeezing, as others normally do. Bitterness will still be there, but just a little. Then I sautéed it with lots of garlic, onion, tomatoes, flakes of tuna and shrimps, oyster sauce and fish sauce, then after a while add the sliced ampalaya. Just a few mixing and it is done (I like it a little crunchy). Sometimes I add eggs at the end of cooking. This is really good and easy to cook, I hope you would try this. I always enjoy reading your site!

  3. Something I could never eat, think my mother used to cook this with eggs and hipon (orangy coloured shrimps)

    We have this in our back yard in Cebu and like you Id rather starve… but, the Ilocanos here prepare this dish with pinakbet and I actually dared.

  4. Either you like ampalaya or you don’t. The bitter taste remains no matter how you cook them. A friend likes to stuff his ampalaya with ground pork or beef, fries them after coating with beaten eggs, bread crumbs and flour like you d do schnitzel.

  5. Bogchief, that recipe sounds good. I hear raw ampalaya in vinegar is good too. Ann, thanks for the comment, and I will try your recipe. I tried a different one and will post it in two days…I actually ate quite a bit of ampalaya! And to all you lurkers (readers who have never left a comment)out there I hope you will jump in with comments soon. The site is so much better now that more and more people are leaving messages. Virgilio, that recipe you mention is similar to a Chinese preparation where they stuff ampalaya and steam or deepfry… it appears on dim sum menus. By the way, the author Elizabeth Schneider is one of the world’s leading experts on uncommon vegetables and according to her experiments, there was no reduction in bitterness if you soaked the ampalaya in salt water, salt, pre-boiled, etc…hmmm, I wonder if that’s true.

  6. My mom seems know how to cook ampalaya well. And we tend to eat though there’s a thinking it might be bitter. But not sure what makes it good when she’s the one who cooks it. First time i ate raw ampalaya, my uncle sliced them thinly and soaked it with good vinegar and dash a little salt and pepper. This recipe is good “tocino”. Another recipe that i’d tried not sure what they really call it but what i heared was “ampalaya salad”. They also sliced it thinly, slice tomatoes, diced onion(depends how much you want), salt and pepper and lastly sliced salted egg. (Put small amount of salt because of the salted egg =) Oh some use “bagoong alamang” or shrimp paste but they don’t mix it with the salad. This recipe is good as side dish with “tocino”, grllied or deep fried fish of any kind. >> Enjoy <<

  7. i cook ampalaya with corned beef (guinisa)or stir fry with beef sirloin marinated with black bean garlic sauce.
    ang ganda nang mga picture, gusto kung magluto dahil may tanim ako sa likod nang bahay pero walang bunga dahil masyadong mainit ngayon kaya dahon nang ampalaya nalang namay mongo beans at baboy ang halo, sarrap

  8. Anne, I have to try an ampalaya salad someday soon, thanks for those ideas. Rey, the beef with blackbean sounds really interesting…salamat!

  9. In Kerala we call it “Pavaka”. Deep frying pavaka is a traditional favourite. It is a yummy crunchy snack and is a good side dish for steamed rice too.
    Here is the recipe.

    Slice it into thin (not wafer thin) rings. Lightly saute it with some sliced shallot onions, ginger and green chillies.
    Add salt to taste. (Optional : Thin slices of fresh coconut can also be added. It gives a nice texture. ) Then deep fry all the sauteed ingredients. Enjoy !!!

  10. Anupama, do you leave the seeds in? When you slice the pavaka, is it in half circles or discs? Is it coated in a batter after sauteeing before frying? This is an intriguing way to cook it and I would like to try it someday. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. Marketman, Trust me you’ll like ampalaya after trying it this way. This is the only way I like it too.

    Leave the seeds in. They give a nice crunch and texture. It is usually sliced in discs but you can do half discs also if you wish. There is no batter. Just saute all the ingredients -ampalaya, coconut, sliced ginger, green chillies, shallot onions. You can add curry leaves too if you have them in Philippines for added flavour. Lightly saute everything and deep fry. Its quick and easy.

  12. I probably is weird, but I liked my ampalaya bitter. I mean no soaking in salt, or rubbing it like trying to take out the taste. I looked for it in big chunks whenever I buy pinakbet in a restaurant. I planted ampalaya here in Houston, and I shrieked with joy when I got my first harvest – it was as big as my thighs, and so green. I cooked it Vietnamese style – (or Japanese?). Soaked in White wine vinegar, sweet chili sauce, salt, pepper, pimiento, onions, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. They are grrrreat! Hey anybody tried white color ampalaya. I saw the seeds, but have not tried planting them. I am thingking of sending them to my cousins who farms in Quezon.

  13. One of my favorite vegetable is ampalaya…especially sa pinakbet. Masarap din siya ang ginisang ampalaya with egg….pinipili ko rin ito pag bumibili kami ng atsara sa Andok’s Litson…wow..nakakagutom…this vegetable is also good for diabetic person…

  14. Where can I buy this product in Houston area. I live near Conroe, TX.

    Spent 3-weeks in Manila and dropped blood sugar 150 points on 3rd day.

  15. Roger, it took me a while to get back to this site, I hope I have your email address so I can reply to your question. Houston has lots & lots of Oriental Market, and they sell ampalaya like its a local veggy. Also in most chinese health food, they sell ampalaya candies and ampalaya tea.

  16. I am working in Dubai UAE and i need some help to find the way to lower my blood sugar.I am Canadien and i am planning to leave in Philippine with my wife I hear about Ampalaya for diabetic and i would like to know more about this vegetable.

    Gilles Alain

  17. Marketman, I was looking for a good ampalaya recipe but discovered your site instead. I only know how to cook this veg two ways. One would be the sauteed with shrimps and egg and the other with “paksiw”. You need: 1milkfish, onion, ginger, 1/3cup vinegar,green chili, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. When its boiling put the ampalaya.Add water if its too sour. The vinegar will drown most of the ampalaya’s bitterness. Just make sure its cooked through. :) Eat with steamed rice with fish sauce+chili on the side.
    To Gilles Alain~ if you are still in Dubai, ampalaya is widely available. But I dont think you could eat enough of it to actually lower your blood sugar level, unless you have a really strong stomach or your taste buds dont work. :D Just try it in tea form, you can check this link: >>it helps with sugar level but its not a substitute for doctor prescribed medication.



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