Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)

This hearty Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua) soup recipe celebrates bitterness. 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. Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup is made by coring bitter melon and filling it with a ground meat and shrimp mixture and then cooking into a light and tasty soup. If you prefer a more flavorful broth, use chicken or vegetable stock. For those newly introduced to this bitter flavor component 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 for instructions.

Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup  / Canh Kho Qua


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


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

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

Dice the onion and chop the scallion.

Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise and then mince well.

Transfer the ground meat, shrimp, noodles, fungus, onions, and scallions into large bowl.  Add 2/3 Tbsp fish sauce and the ground black pepper.  Combine all ingredients together mixing well.  Spoon the meat mixture into the bitter melon.  Pack the meat mixture inside the core filling it completely.  Continue until all the bitter melon pieces are stuffed.  If there’s leftover filling, make little meatballs.

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large pot. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp fish sauce to season the water.  Transfer the stuffed bitter melon pieces (and any meatballs) into the pot.  Let the broth come to a boil again.  Skim off the bubbles with a ladle or spoon and discard.  (This helps to keep the broth clear.)  Reduce the heat to Low and cover the pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Top the Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup with more ground black pepper. Optionally garnish the soup with freshly chopped cilantro and scallions.

Yields:  4-6 servings

Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua) - hearty soup with a unique flavors | recipe from

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One Response to Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)

  1. Wyn May 13, 2023 at 5:19 pm #

    I’ve always wondered how to cook this! Thanks. Not sure I’ll get around to cooking it but at least now I know how.:-)

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