Thursday, May 21, 2009

S & M Experience

I've been in an experimental mood for quite some time now, trying something new each time I hit the market; most of the experiments have been delicious revelations that made me wonder why I had avoided those particular ingredients for so long. There have been one or two oopses but, by and large, we have enjoyed these forays into (to us) uncharted gustatory terrain.

So, when in our Point Richmond farmer's market (Wednesdays, 4-6pm through the summer) I came across this exotic, curving bunch of pretty, wrinkly, maple-like leaves and pea-like tendrils, I asked the purveyors what they were. In halting English, with lots of smiles and gestures, they explained to me that this was the vine of bitter melon, best eaten lightly steamed and with chicken. Sounded interesting and I usually like bitter greens such as spinach and kale with chicken, so I popped the whole big bunch in my basket.

The next day, I prepared it by picking the leaves and tendrils off of the tougher vines and butter steaming;
the leaves turn a wonderful dark green and wilt much like spinach does. Not having any chicken in the house, I served our poached salmon on it, flanked by a wedge of Meyer lemon from friends Patty and Momo's garden and a half a store-bought tangerine.

Sadly, bitter melon is well named. This is truly the Sadist of the veggie world - the leaves were so incredibly, bitingly bitter to our wimpy taste buds that we just couldn't summon the necessary masochism to finish them - more like medicine than like food. I did try squeezing the sweet tangerine juice over them but, while it helped a little, I still couldn't bring myself to finish my portion and My Beloved, who is a dedicated trencherman and an adventurous eater, put down his fork after the first bite.

If you have some sage advice for preparing bitter melon, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I will just chalk it up to bitter experience and try something else next time - maybe veggie bondage?.

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9 Comments:

Blogger namastenancy said...

I have no sage advice, only a similar experience. I tried making stir fried beef with bitter melon and had to throw the whole thing out - it tasted like unadulterated quinine. I suspect it's an acquired taste!

Thursday, May 21, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

As they say it must be an acquired taste. ;)

Thursday, May 21, 2009  
Blogger namastenancy said...

Interesting article here:
http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/features/bitterm.html

Thursday, May 21, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Avoid it. You tried. It failed you.

Thursday, May 21, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Nancy, thanks for the article - I gather one really can get used to the bitterness, and even end up liking it! If I lived in malarial regions, I might try again.

Greg, I'd have to say that one would have to work long and hard to acquire this one.

Cookiecrumb, good, succinct advice.

Friday, May 22, 2009  
Blogger kudzu said...

Have been looking for my Asian vegetable reference book and realize I handed it over to my son, who lives very near shoppers' heaven, Clement St., to help him identify plantage....However, what I've been able to discern from a couple of other sources is that bitter melon greens are substantially more bitter than the squash itself, which is plenty....I agree with Cookiecrumb. One would have to be raised on eating something so near-medicinal. (Though there is much to be gained by using it, I find, in a diabetic's diet.)

Friday, May 22, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Kudzu, there's some interesting stuff about it on the interwebs but nothing convincing to me... :-)

Friday, May 22, 2009  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

If it tastes like quinine, try dousing it in Gin!

Friday, May 22, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Morgan, brilliant, simply brilliant!

Saturday, May 23, 2009  

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