Vegetation Profile: Bitter Melon


Momordica charantia is a tropical and subtropical vine of the family Cucurbitaceae, widely grown for edible fruit, which is among the most bitter of all vegetables. English names for the plant and its fruit include bitter melon or bitter gourd (translated from Chinese: 苦瓜; pinyin: kǔguā), in Jamaica it is generally known as cerasse. The original home of the species is not known, other than that it is a native of the tropics. It is widely grown in South and Southeast Asia, China, Africa, and the Caribbean.

The fruit has a distinct warty looking exterior and an oblong shape. It is hollow in cross-section, with a relatively thin layer of flesh surrounding a central seed cavity filled with large flat seeds and pith. Bitter melon comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. The typical Chinese phenotype is 20 to 30 cm long, oblong with bluntly tapering ends and pale green in color, with a gently undulating, warty surface.

Bitter melon or khổ qua is a staple in down home Vietnamese cooking. I have encountered it stuffed with ground meat at com binh dan establishments and simmered in a soup at my grandma’s sister’s house. I’ve even seen it stuffed with meat and simmering in a soup simultaneously. Regardless of the style of preparation, bitter melon seems to be an acquired taste that just doesn’t vibe well with me. The melon’s texture is pleasant, but its flavor is way too harsh.


6 Responses to “Vegetation Profile: Bitter Melon”

  1. 1 angel van November 6, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    i really don’t know how some people can eat this. my mom usually stuffs it with the ground pork for my dad. but there have been times that she used it to stir-fry with meat. but we call it muop dang.

  2. 2 James November 7, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Muop dang is an entirely different species…but yeah, tried kho qua stuffed with a ground pork in soup a couple of times…definitely not my cup of “soup” 🙂

  3. 3 pizzamuncher November 7, 2007 at 7:35 am

    It’s a shame that not many people can enjoy it. For those who do, its true taste isn’t bitter but sweet. The sweetness is subtle and hidden inside the bitterness.

  4. 4 Gastronomer November 7, 2007 at 9:10 am

    Pizza man – I’m gonna keep eating bitter melon at every opportunity until I discover the subtle sweetness ;-).

    James and Angel – what’s muop dang?

  5. 5 angel van November 7, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    well my family always called bitter melon- muop dang. so i am not sure what james is referring to.

  6. 6 Stuff June 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

    muop dang is use by the northern part of Vietnamese while kho qua is within the southern…so please know your culture and distinct between 2 term…besides, there are tons of language barrier in Vietnam 😐

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