Okinawan Bitter Melon, Tofu, and Pork Scramble
Yield 4 servings
If you elect to use Spam or bacon, cut them into small pieces and fry them to render fat and flavor for the dish; cut back on the sesame oil. If your bitter melon is big, add an egg to the scramble and increase the seasonings a little.
- 1 small to medium bitter melon (6 to 8 ounces)
- About 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 14 to 16 ounces medium-firm or firm tofu
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 to 4 ounces ground pork, fattier kind preferred, roughly chopped to loosen
- 1 medium-hot chile, such as Fresno or Jalapeno, halved lengthwise then thinly cut crosswise
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 1 1/2 tablespoons stock (dashi, chicken, or vegetable)
- 1 tablespoon Japanese or Korean soy sauce
- 1 green onion, green and white parts, thinly sliced
- Japanese ground red chile (ichimi togarashi), optional
- Trim the ends and then split each bitter melon half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and spongy inside. Discard these. Slice each half on the diagonal into longish thin pieces.
- Put the bitter melon into a bowl and add water to cover. Gently massage until the water turns opaque; this releases some of the bitterness. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Taste and if the bitter melon is still too bitter for your taste, toss with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside for 10 minutes. More bitterness will release in the liquid that will pool in the bowl. Pour off the liquid, rinse, and set aside to drain.
- Meanwhile, cut the tofu into 2- to 3-inch squares, each about 1 inch thick. Drain the tofu for about 5 minutes atop a non-terry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels set on a plate. Put another towel on top and gently press to expel some moisture. Cut each piece of tofu into 1-inch chunks.
- Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sesame oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the pork, poking and mashing it into small pieces. Sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the pork is no longer pink. Add the bitter melon, chile, and sake. Continue stir-frying for 1 minute, until the bitter melon has just started to soften. Add the tofu, gently mashing and stirring to crumble into irregular chunks.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, then cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, to heat through. Add the dashi stock and soy sauce and cook for 1 minute to allow the tofu to absorb the liquid seasonings and soften. Turn off the heat. Season with extra salt, if needed. Sprinkle in the green onion, stir to distribute, then transfer to a plate. Offer the ground red chile to guests who want it.
This recipe is based on one in my book, Asian Tofu (2012, Ten Speed Press).
Recipe by Viet World Kitchen at https://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2018/08/okinawan-bitter-melon-tofu-and-pork-scramble.html