Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Spareribs with Bitter Gourd Soup
"Yuck! Yuck! Why would anybody add anything bitter to a soup?"
That was my first reaction when a friend introduced me to this dish. We were casually talking about food (our favorite conversation topic), we were comparing notes, comparing recipes and this soup came up. Here in the Philippines, if you have kids, you definitely must serve soup. You have to have many variations of soups, specially if you have picky kids, plus one picky Hubby... My friend said that this is how her mom would usually cook the bitter gourd for them. She assured me the soup will not taste bitter. In fact, it will be delicious and very healthy.
The bitter gourd is also known as bitter melon. In Filipino, it is the famous ampalaya. In Chinese, it is called Ku Gua. The bitter gourd is the oblong, textured, green gourd. The skin is edible. I think it gets more bitter the more it ripens. So it is better to buy young ones. How will you know when you get more mature ones? When you open the gourd and the pith is yellow in color, then it is a bit mature. It is still very edible, though a bit more bitter than the young ones. It is not the size that matters. I have seen some baby bitter gourd and they taste even more bitter than the regular ones.
I am not very fond of bitter gourd when I was single. When I got married though, we lived for a few years with my in-laws and I learned to like this bitter veggie. The taste kind of 'grows' on you. Yes, it is an acquired taste. My mother-in-law believes that the Bitter Gourd is one of the super vegetables - ranked up high with brocolli and watercress. So, we would regularly have this veggie on the menu. She was proven correct when recent studies show that the bitter gourd can help regulate blood sugar level and helps regulate body functions. In fact, it is now made into tea, and capsules for those who do not enjoy this veggie.
There are many pre-cooking 'treatments' for the bitter gourd, supposedly to lessen the bitterness. But for this soup, I just washed the whole gourd, split it in half vertically, removed the seeds and the pulp. Then cut into 1 inch pieces, and dropped into the cooking soup. True to her word, the soup does not taste bitter. Even the cooked bitter gourd pieces does not taste bitter. So, where did the bitterness go??? My friend's mom was proven correct. This is the best way to serve this healthy gourd to children.
This dish is actually a very simple soup made of of 3 basic ingredients: The meat, the bitter gourd and the salted egg. Salted egg (Itlog na maalat) is a preserved food product made by soaking eggs in brine. In this country, it is available in almost all groceries and wet markets, usually dyed red. These are available in the United states as well. In the Asian supermarkets these eggs are sometimes sold covered in a thick layer of salted charcoal paste or vacuum packed in plastic.
1 kilo pork spareribs, chopped
1 pc bitter gourd
2 pcs salted eggs
5 T garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
10 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil some water in a heavy pot. Blanch the pork spareribs first. This is supposedly to 'clean' the meat to reduce oiliness in the soup. I just do it for hygienic reasons. Drain the spareribs and set aside.
2. Remove the eggshells, and cut the salted eggs in half. Set aside. Cut the bitter gourd in half vertically. Remove the pulp and the seeds. Cut into 1 inch pieces.
3. Boil the water used for cooking the soup. When it boils, add the blanched spareribs. Add all the other ingredients except for the salt and pepper. Simmer until meat is tender, around one to one and a half hour. Alternatively, you can just put everything in a crockpot and let it cook the whole afternoon. By evening meal, you already have a warm soup ready.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
This is my entry this week to Weekend Herb Blogging. This is a weekly event launched by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week, the event is hosted by Laurie of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Last week's round-ups are here, beautifully done and poetically written by Anh of Food Lover's Journey. If you want to join or learn more about WHB, please click here.