“Huh? What the heck is bittermelon?” I know that was the first thing that popped through at least 90% of your minds when you saw this. Don’t feel bad about it. Bittermelon is a very strange creature and its no wonder you’ve never heard of it. Half the chefs on Food Network’s “Chopped” the other day hadn’t either! And they’re professionals. I hadn’t ever heard of it until last year around this time when we spotted some at the farmer’s market and B nearly jumped for joy as he placed it in our already-overflowing bag. Don’t worry… I was just as confused as you. Probably even more confused, as I could see the thing. Check it out:
Weird, huh? Yeah, I know. But don’t let the alien-fruit-vegetable-looking-thing and the name (melon.. yum.. but bitter?..ew..) scare you! It’s actually not half bad! Well… it is a little weird. But if you happen to see bittermelon at the farmer’s market next time you’re there… pick it up! Try it! This recipe actually tastes kind of delicious once it’s all together.
Brett is friends with this Sri Lankan guy who made this for him once when he invited him over for a traditional dinner. He actually made it as a joke, but Brett ate the whole bowl because he loved it. And bittermelon isn’t all that easy to find, which is why he was so thrilled to see it at the farmer’s market. Brett has made it for me a few times now, but this was my first attempt at making it on my own (I say on my own, but at every step I was asking him “is this okay? does this look right?”) and it actually turned out kind of delicious! I forgot a couple of ingredients but it was so good it didn’t even matter! And the best thing is, it’s super super easy to make and apparently bittermelon is quite healthy for you. (although Brett likes to claim this of every funky-tasting-hard-to-find food).
- 3-5 small bittermelon, very thinly sliced
- handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- wedge of lime
- (optional) pinch of caldo de pollo (I left this out by accident and it tasted even better than usual..)
- vegetable oil for frying
- heat about 1-2 inches of oil in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.
- toss the bittermelon (in a single layer into.. don’t overcrowd the pan. do two batches if necessary) the oil and fry until golden through to the middle. Its better to let them get a little too dark than to have them uncooked… the frying cuts the bitterness.
- Once cooked, scoop the bittermelon out with a slotted or mesh spoon/ basket and lay on a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- In a bowl, toss the bittermelon with the tomatoes and shallots. Squeeze the lime wedge on top and toss.
- Serve by itself or with white rice or quinoa or whatever you are making for dinner that night!
ps. this dish is best served at room temperature even if its on top of hot rice. Also, I am one of those people who pick through combo-foods (trail mix, salads, etc) and eat only one thing at a time. In this case, the salad is best when you get all 3 parts in one bite. mmm.