Ampalaya con Carne is one of the easiest dish you can make in under 30 minutes.
Bitter melon or ampalaya is an odd-looking green vegetable with “wrinkles” and a remarkably bitter taste. Hold on… that did not sound right. I may have used the wrong words to describe this next dish…
Admittedly, I hated it too when I was a kid and I remember my mother forcing me to eat it because it is “supposedly good for me”. To a five-year-old, the bitter taste will surely make you wonder why people eat it at all.
As always, mother turns out to be right and this vegetable has wonderful health benefits. Did somebody mention, anti-aging properties?
I do not know what did it but that green wrinkly vegetable eventually grew on me and it has now become one of my favorite veggies.
So, how do you make a bitter melon not so bitter anymore?
The trick is to scoop and scrape off the seeds and pith from the core, then rub the sliced bitter melon with a good amount of salt. The salt will draw the bitter juice out of the gourd. Let it rest and sweat, then rinse all of the salt with running water.
For this recipe, Ampalaya con Carne, the bitter melon is paired with stir-fried pork tenderloin. You can use a lean cut of beef too.
To start, marinate the pork tenderloin. Slice the meat thinly. Place in a small bowl and combine with cornstarch, soy sauce and oil. Toss to coat. Cover and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Next, slice the bitter melon in half and scoop out the white inner pith. Slice into even thickness and sprinkle some salt. Let the vegetable sweat to ease the bitterness a little, then rinse in cold running water.
Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the meat and break-up in the pan into a single layer. Cook without stirring until meat is seared to brown, for 1-2 minutes. Stir meat and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add onion, ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour water and scrape off any bits from the pan as you let the liquid mixture come to a boil.
Toss in the ampalaya and distribute evenly in the pan. Lower heat and let simmer for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften.
Add the oyster sauce, sugar and cornstarch slurry.The saltiness from oyster sauce and sweetness of sugar is a nice contrast to the bitterness of the vegetable.
Cook until the sauce thickens and ingredients are nicely coated. There you have it…Ampalaya con Carne.
Ampalaya Con Carne
- 1 large Ampalaya bitter gourd / bitter melon vegetable
- 1 teaspoon salt for sweating the vegetable
- 1/2 pound pork tenderloin sliced thinly
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon oyster sauce for marinade
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 3 teaspoon oil divided
- 1- inch chunk ginger peeled and grated
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 small shallot sliced
- 1 cup water divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
- Pinch of white pepper
Cornstarch slurry mixture
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp water
- Bell pepper for garnish
- Marinate the meat. Slice the pork tenderloin diagonally across the grain in 1/4 slices. In a bowl, combine the meat and 1 teaspoon cornstarch. Mix well until meat is coated. Add in 1 teaspoon oyster sauce, soy sauce and oil, then stir until incorporated. Cover and marinate for about 15 minutes.
- Sweat the ampalaya (bitter melon or bitter gourd). Using a knife, split the vegetable into half, then scoop and scrape the core with a spoon. Slice to 1/4 inch thickness. To reduce bitterness, sprinkle with salt then toss to distribute salt. Let it sit for about 20-30 minutes, then rinse in cold water.
- Heat oil in a large skillet on high heat. Toss the marinated pork, stirring occasionally, so it develops a sear on sides. Cook the meat to medium well doneness, about 4 minutes. Add onion, garlic, ginger and cook for about 1 minute. Pour 1/4 cup of water and let come to boil for 1 minute. Scrape off any bits from the pan as it adds flavor to the dish.
- Add the ampalaya and lightly stir just enough to distribute evenly in the pan. Let simmer for about 5 minutes without stirring. Add the remaining water, oyster sauce, sugar and cornstarch slurry. Cook until the vegetable is done to tender-crisp and the sauce has thickened and turned into a glaze.
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