So after choosing my prickly bitter in Taj Stores, I took a trip to Chinatown for a bit more shopping and stumbled across yet another fancy, wrapped bitter melon. Now I was really confused, so I headed to Mr Kong and ordered my favourite dish. The manager spotted my bitter melon sticking out of my carrier bag while taking my order and told me that was the wrong one as it wasn't bitter enough! Luckily, I had three options and my first choice in the Taj was the purist's bitter melon.
You will find bitter melon in most Asian supermarkets and, as I discovered, go for the most prickly one – not the fancy wrapped version.
1 bitter melon
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
A few sprigs of coriander
For the stuffing
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small green chilli, finely chopped
3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
A small piece of root ginger weighing about 30g, scraped and finely grated
2tsp ground cumin
tsp ground coriander
200g minced lamb or mutton
1tbsp chopped coriander
To make the stuffing: heat a little vegetable oil in a pan and gently cook the garlic, chilli, shallots and root ginger for a couple of minutes to soften. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool a little, then mix in the rest of the stuffing ingredients and season.
Cut the bitter melon into 1cm-thick slices on the slight angle. With a small, sharp knife, carefully cut out the seeds from the centre of each slice, ensuring you keep the slices intact as much as possible.
Spoon the filling firmly into the centre of each slice and smooth over with the back of a spoon or knife. Heat the rest of the vegetable oil in a heavy or non-stick frying pan and fry the bitter melon for 1-2 minutes on each side, nicely colouring them. Pour enough water into the pan to cover the bitter melon, add a couple of good pinches of salt, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 4-5 minutes, then drain in a colander.
Serve immediately, scattered with the coriander leaves.