Beef with bitter melon is a popular Chinese dish, often prepared by stir-frying it with black bean sauce and serving it over hot steamed rice

Satisfying Your Palate: Beef with Bitter Melon

Recipe by Annie Tibber


Prep time


Cooking time





Beef with bitter melon is a classic Chinese dish, often stir-fried with black bean sauce and served over steaming rice


  • 1 pound of beef (450g), thinly sliced against the grain (flank steak is a good choice)

  • 2 medium bitter melons

  • Salt

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

  • 2 tablespoons of oil (divided)

  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons of black beans, rinsed and drained

  • One and a half tablespoons of Shaoxing wine

  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

  • 1 teaspoon of dark soy sauce

  • A single tablespoon of light soy sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil

  • 1/8 teaspoon of white pepper

  • 2 tablespoons of water (or chicken stock, if desired)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch

  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce

  • 1 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine

  • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of water


  • Start by mixing the sliced beef with the marinade ingredients, which consist of cornstarch, baking soda, oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and water. Allow the beef to sit in the marinade for a duration of 20 minutes
  • For the bitter melon preparation, begin by cutting each melon in half lengthwise and using a spoon to remove the seeds. Make sure to scrape away all the white parts, as they contribute to the bitterness. Slice the melon into thin pieces at a 45-degree angle.
  • Get ready an ice bath and keep it on standby. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for 1 minute, then immediately transfer it to the ice bath using a slotted spoon. Drain and set it aside.
  • Heat the wok on high heat before using. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and sear the beef for about 45 seconds. Remove the beef from the wok and set it aside.
  • Increase the heat to medium and add one more tablespoon of oil to the wok. Sauté the garlic and black beans for a minute. Increase the heat to high (this imparts the necessary wok-hay flavor) and add the bitter melon, stir-frying quickly. Then add the Shaoxing wine, sugar, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper. Stir and thoroughly combine all the ingredients.
  • Now, reintroduce the beef and chicken stock (if you prefer more sauce), stir-frying and adjusting the seasoning to your taste. At this point, I typically cover the wok and let the dish cook for one more minute. Cooking the bitter melon until it becomes tender may not result in the most visually appealing dish, but it certainly enhances the flavor and reduces the bitterness of the bitter melon

For many Chinese individuals, consuming “bitter gourd,” more commonly known as bitter melon, during the summertime is considered essential. This is because the Chinese believe that bitter melon possesses cooling properties, which help in lowering body heat amidst the summer’s scorching temperatures. As a result, numerous families incorporate bitter melon into their weekly diet for its cooling effects.

While most people avoid this dish due to its notorious bitterness, I assure you that by following my recipe and preparation method for beef with bitter melon, you can significantly reduce the bitterness. Additionally, according to WebMD, bitter melon’s fruit and seeds are used for medicinal purposes. I was aware of its many health benefits, but I didn’t know it contained a compound that helps lower blood sugar levels. As far as we’re concerned, bitter melon ranks among the likes of acai berries and goji berries in terms of health benefits. Give it a try!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *