Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)

In Vietnamese cuisine, bitterness is not a bad thing but a fundamental food taste.  And so, many Vietnamese dishes incorporate certain vegetables or herbs with a distinct bitter taste.  This hearty soup celebrates bitterness! It is made by coring bitter melon and stuffing it with a ground meat/shrimp filling and then cooking into a tasty soup.  If you prefer a milder broth, use chicken or vegetable stock.  For those who are newly introduced to this aspect of Asian cuisine, it may take some time to hone your taste buds. As you start to acquire the taste, you’ll find you really do enjoy and start to crave this element!

Watch the video below for instructions.


3 bitter melons
1/2 lb ground pork, turkey or chicken
15 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2-1.8 oz package bean thread noodles
1 tsp dried black fungus slivers (also called wood ear mushrooms)
1/4 small onion
1 green scallion
2 tsp fish sauce for meat filling
6 cups water
3 Tbsp fish sauce for soup
1/4 tsp black pepper


Wash bitter melons.  Cut off ends and then cut each melon into 4 equal pieces.  Remove core from each piece and discard.

Soak bean thread noodles and dried fungus in separate bowls of warm tap water for 10 minutes.  Drain noodles and fungus. Cut noodles into shorter strands and chop fungus into fine pieces.

Dice onions and chop scallions into small pieces.

Slice shrimp in half lengthwise and then mince well.

Put meat, shrimp, noodles, fungus, onions, scallions into large bowl.  Add fish sauce and black pepper.  Combine all ingredients together mixing well.  Spoon meat mixture into the bitter melon.  Pack the meat inside the core filling it completely.  Continue until all the bitter melon pieces are stuffed.  If there’s leftover filling, make little meatballs.

In a large sauce pan, bring 6 cups water to a boil.  Add fish sauce to season the water.  Drop stuffed bitter melon pieces (and any meatballs) into the pot.  Let broth come to a boil again.  Skim off the meat bubbles with a ladle or spoon.  (This helps to keep the broth clear.)  Reduce the heat and cover the pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Before serving sprinkle black pepper and freshly chopped cilantro and scallions on top.

Yields:  4-6 servings

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