Vietnamese bitter melon soup

kho qua

I didn’t have any luck recovering the notebook that I had left behind at the grocery a couple of weeks ago. I called them twice last week to see if anyone was kind enough to turn it in, but after checking the objets perdus (lost and found), nothing turned up. Both gals whom I spoke to said someone probably took it or trashed it and since a week has passed since I lost it, they said that it isn’t likely that it will turn up. Ugh, I knew the chances were slim, but my heart sank after calling them. Nearly a decade of home recipes gone, the most precious ones being those from my grandma and mother.

filling for canh kho qua
Bittermelon soup

This loss is just too painful, I don’t even want to think about it anymore. So, I’m going to share with you my recipe for making stuffed bittermelon soup. Brace yourselves though because y’all are about to see the ugliest there is in food photography. You see, I usually don’t have time to snap decent photos when what I’m making is our lunch or dinner, because the mister gets impatient and wants to just eat before the food gets cold. This was one of those times. I brought the soup to the dinner table first and while the mister was still doing other things in the kitchen, I quickly snuck in a couple photos right before we started to eat. I tried to edit the photo a bit, but not really knowing how to use those programs, that’s about as good as it’ll get. Though the photo looks pretty unappetizing, I swear it tastes much much better than it looks!

kho qua

As with the dish that I had shared last week, it takes a few tries to really appreciate bitter melon because of its bitterness. Definitely give it a try though, because like me, you may even grow to like it! Usually, at each meal, we have a little bowl of fish sauce mixed with a few squeezes of lime juice and some fresh chilis as a condiment for our veggie or meat dish. This is not to be confused with nước mắm chấm, which is also a dipping sauce, but mixed with sugar, water, nước mắm, garlic, and lime juice or vinegar.  For instance, we usually eat nước mắm chấm with things like eggrolls. I usually like to dip a little bit of the bitter melon into our little mix. Again, as I mentioned in my last post, dishes like these are not meant to be standalone dishes, rather they are eaten as part of a family style meal.

Canh Khổ Qua
bitter melon soup

2 bitter melons
100 g ground pork
1 small onion, diced
3 tbspns finely chopped wood ear mushrooms
3 tbspns chopped bean thread noodles
1 tspn salt
1/2 tspn ground pepper
1 tspn sugar
1/2 tspn nước mắm

1. Wash and dry the bitter melon. Cut them in half widthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Once the insides are clean, cut the halves in half widthwise and set aside.

2. Soak the wood ear mushrooms in warm water. Once they have softened, drain and rinse again with some water. After squeezing out the excess liquid, chop them into small pieces.

3. Similarly, soak the bean thread noodles in warm water, and once they have softened, drain and roughly chop them with some scissors.

4. In a bowl, thoroughly mix the ground pork with the onions, wood ear mushrooms and bean thread noodles. Season with the salt, sugar, pepper and nước mắm. The quantities for the seasonings are just approximate, so season according to your taste. I usually microwave about 1/2 tspn of the filling so I can taste if it has been adequately seasoned or not. If not, add more salt and sugar accordingly.

5. Fill each quarter of bitter melon with the filling. If there is any filling left over, roll them into little meatballs.

6. Boil some water in an electric or regular kettle. Place the stuffed bitter melon and meatballs into a saucepan large enough to accomodate them. Pour enough hot water into the saucepan to cover the bitter melon by about 5-8 centimeters. Allow to simmer over medium low heat for about 10-15. Season with additional salt, sugar and nước mắm if necessary. Once cooked, serve in a bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions.


4 thoughts on “Vietnamese bitter melon soup

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your lost recipes! However, this recipe does sound very intriguing. A lot of the bloggers I follow have been putting Vietnamese recipes up lately (maybe they associate the food with summer), but this has to be the most interesting of them all.


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