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Heathy ingredient: Bitter gourd


a healthy food bitter gourd in Chinese cuisine
Bitter gourd

Couple of weeks ago, when we were shopping in the market where we normally go, I saw bitter gourds. Since they are difficult to find, I decided to buy some, and make a few healthy dishes with them. Before sharing the recipes here, I thought it would be good to talk about the benefits of bitter gourds; then, we can probably try to persuade ourselves to bear with their bitterness. :))

When I told my parents that I was going to prepare a bitter gourd dish, they were so happy – they have been pushing me to have them for years, and always trying to cook them for me whenever I am back to China, but I was put down by their bitter taste each and every time. — My parents were quite disappointed, but they did try to give me some time to get used to the bitterness.

And now, I am trying to have them again — you know what, I think it is because of the nostalgia, rather than a change in my heart. — Well, probably, not totally true, I do want to benefit from their rare properties.

Bitter gourd comes in different varieties regionally, the function and taste is all the same though. For example,
the ones in China, it look like something in-between cucumber and courgette. And the surface is a bit smoother.

Although, it has been used in Chinese medicine and Chinese cuisine for hundreds of years, bitter gourd has only become extremely popular in China in the past — say 15 years? Its popularity is all attributed to its health benefits. Some say that it is one of the best vegetables for improving diabetes and toxemia conditions. It has lots vitamins like B1, B2, folic acid… And it is rich in dietary fiber and iron. It is said that it is good for blood disorders, diabetes, strengthen the immune system and toxemia.

And in Chinese medicine, it is considered as ‘cold’ type of food, actually in Chinese, bitter gourd is also called ‘cold gourd’ — it is also because people did not like name the vegetables or food by its taste in the past. It is recorded in Chinese medicine that bitter gourd is good for heart blood circle, lung, spleen and stomach, can calm down the ‘heat’ from inner body, detox the body, ease dysentery, and help with skin ulcer.

However, it is not that easy to eat it though, at least for me — it is simply too bitter. You have to be able to take bitterness in order to benefit from its properties. There is a way to help reduce the bitterness — to boil chopped bitter gourd briefly with a pinch of salt and a few drops of oil, then rinse it in cold water. But this can only help reduce the bitterness to certain degree, you still can taste the bitterness.

In Chinese cuisine, similarly to cucumber, bitter gourd can be made into salad / liang cai, or stir fried with other food, or made into soup. Normally the central part is excluded in the cooking.

There is a saying in Chinese,, “good medicine tastes bitter in the mouth’. So here you go.:)) If you like the idea of it, there are more bitter food but super healthy food in Chinese cuisine I can introduce some recipes for you.

—Ok, the healthy but bitter recipe will be shared with you next week then.

Related posts:

Chinese sweet and sour (vinegar and sugar)
Stories: eating in Edinburgh
Winter ingredient: Northeast pickled Chinese leaves ( Chinese style sauerkraut)
update! :)


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