Bitter Melon and Wood Ear Stirfry
I have been in low GI, low carb, high protein and high fiber diet for quite a while, not just because I have been in weigh control, but have kept a close eye on my blood sugar and blood pressure. They are not in a critical condition, no medication needed yet, but not in a good level in my age. Thus I have tried to live a healthier life. Cantonese know how to eat properly according to weather changes and body condition. Bitter melon and wood ear, key ingredients in this recipe, serve such purpose – bitter melon is seasonal in summer, and both of them are beneficial to my health.
What is bitter melon
Bitter melon is one of my favourite vegetable in summer. It’s juicy and crunchy with bitter flavour, though not very bitter nowadays. There are different types of it, some long and thin, some short and round, some with pointed ends, some with rounder ends, some in green and some in white. It’s quite a common vegetable in Chinese food. Since it can be easily cultivated, it can be obtained easily worldwide. Like most other vegetable melons, bitter melon is high in vitamin and fiber, and low in calorie. Particularly, it helps to decrease level of blood sugar. Stir-fry is the most usual way to cook it. But it can be in juice, in tea, or in salad. Cantonese even like to make bitter melon soup with soy beans and pork ribs in summer.
How to prepare bitter melon
Bitter melon nowadays is not very bitter actually, you could put it into your juice or salad directly after seeded. But if you want to remove a little bitterness, you can –
- Try to remove all white pith, use a spoon. Pith is bitter and chewy;
- Mix the bitter melon slices with a pinch of salt, let them sweat for 15 minutes, then rinse off the salt in running water;
- Or blanch them in a big pot of boiling water with a pinch of salt; blanch quickly for about 1 minute till they turn bright green, then cool down in running water or in iced water right away, to keep the crunchiness;
- Then they are good for further cooking and seasoning. Cantonese like to stir-fry bitter melon with oyster sauce. Its umami and sweetness can cover a little bitterness.
What is wood ear
Wood ear, also called black wood ear or cloud ear, is a type of fungus. It grows on wood and is in brown or black ear shape. Chinese started its cultivation since Tang dynasty. Fresh wood ear is not wildly available but its dried form is a very common ingredient in Chinese food and can be obtained easily worldwide in most Asian grocery stores. It has a jelly-like texture and mild flavour, thus it needs to be seasoned or cooked with other ingredients. Wood ear and vegetable stirfry, wood ear in Chinese salad, steamed chicken and wood ear, wood ear in sour and hot soup, these are usual Chinese home-cooking dishes.
Like other mushrooms, wood ear is low in calorie and high in protein and fiber. Some research suggest it may help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
How to prepare dried wood ear
Before preparing dried wood ear, you should know –
- Try to eat fresh, don’t leave it overnight, if there is leftover, make sure you finish it the other day. A small handful, about 10g can be enough for 2 serving;
- Soak dried wood ear in water for 1 to 2 hours till soft and expand, change water several times. Don’t soak it for too long; If you want to soak it in the morning and cook it after work, keep it in fridge, but never overnight;
- Blanch the soft wood ear in a big pot of boiling water for at least 5 minutes, it needs to be cooked thoroughly;
- Then they are good for further cooking or seasoning.
Ingredients – for 1 to 2 serving
- Bitter melon, 1
- Dried wood ear, about 10g, a small handful
- Red chili pepper, 1
- Egg, 2, medium size
- Garlic, 2
- Oyster sauce, 1tbsp, or vegetarian oyster sauce
- Light soy sauce, 1tbsp
- Cornstarch, 1tsp
How to do –
- Prepare the ingredients – Soak dried wood ear in water for about 2 hours till it turns soft, change water several times; bitter melon seeded then cut into about 0.5cm thick slice; chili pepper seeded, and sliced into bite size; eggs whisked and seasoned with a nip of salt, scrambled; garlic sliced; in a small mixing bowl, prepare the cornstarch slurry with 1tsp of cornstarch, 1tbsp of oyster sauce and light soy sauce, and 1/2cup of water;
2. Blanching – bring a pot of water to boil and season with a pinch of salt, blanch bitter melon quickly, for about 1 minute till they turn bright green; blanch wood ear for at least 5 minutes; drained;
3. Stir-fry, it only takes less than 5 minutes – heat 2tbsp of oil in hot wok, stir-fry the garlic till fragrant; transfer the bitter melon, wood ear and chili pepper in the wok, in high heat, toss and flip the wok, stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes; put in the scrambled egg; mix the cornstarch slurry before sprinkling over the ingredients, toss and stir-fry for a few seconds; serve hot right away.