Sunday, 1 July 2007

Fried Beef With Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd is a vegetable not popular with many households. The Chinese traditionally boil it with pork ribs as a soup or fry it with eggs, the Indians and Malays fry it with curry powder or ‘sambal’( malay chilli sauce). Although not a vegetable of choice for many, its medicinal benefits cannot be underestimated. It is known to lower cholesterol and blood sugar level, stimulate digestion and expel gas as well as inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer. The Chinese have long known of its health promoting qualities. The Indians have used it as a remedy for many illnesses in their Ayurveda, their ancient system of health care. Some tribes in the Amazon have used it for treatment ranging from wounds to infections of various kinds. And it figures prominently in Brazil herbal medicinal practice.

Still, it is a vegetable eaten only occasionally, much less in its raw state. However, there are other ways to make it more palatable; one is stewed porkribs (or other meat) with bitter gourd, the other is fried beef with bitter gourd (it has to be beef and no other).

One night Oni Kee brought a small container of stewed pork ribs with bitter gourd. It was delectable; the oblong chunks of bitter gourd, soaked in the gravy of crushed preserved black beans, thick black sauce and whole garlic, were soft and juicy with a hint of bitterness.

Two days ago, I was invited by Oni to try his fried bitter gourd with beef. The dish, which is simple to prepare, consists of sliced bitter gourd, sliced beef, preserved black beans, garlic and a sprinkling of fish sauce during frying.

This was how Oni did it: The sliced beef was thinly sprinkled with corn flour and mixed to give it a smooth texture; a little soya sauce was added. The bitter gourd was sliced open into two halves, the seeds and the fibrous membrane inside removed. Then each half was sliced thinly. That been done, minced garlic was fried before adding the sliced bitter gourd and salted black beans. Water was sprinkled to allow the bitter gourd to simmer. Once the bitter gourd was relatively soft, sliced beef was added. The trick is not to overcook the beef; when the beef turned slightly pinkish in colour, it was about ready. Fish sauce was added sparingly as the preserved black beans are quite salty. For those who can't do without Aji-no-moto, add a pinch of it.

The bitter gourd, tasting faintly of black beans, was fried to the right tenderness, the beef chewy, yet soft and juicy. It was a simple yet tasty way to eat a vegetable many people are not particularly fond of.

And how do you select a bitter gourd that is less bitter, I asked Oni.

"Look for a bitter gourd that has thick ridges," he replied. But I was disinclined to believe him. But who knows? He may be telling the truth. The best way to test his hypothesis is to go buy one with thick ridges and one with narrow ridges and cook them separately.

Other mouth-watering dishes served that day by the homemaker were fried kway teow with onions, capsicum and beef, and steamed garrupa fish head (it was huge and only half a head was used) in preserved black beans, oyster sauce and chopped spring onions.

For more information on the medicinal benefits of bitter gourd, go to: Picture of bitter gourd from:


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