Bitter Melon Salad Recipe ゴーヤの白和え

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Bitter Melon Salad | JustOneCookbook.com

Today’s recipe is a vegetarian salad with bitter melon, or sometimes called bitter gourd.  In Japanese this vegetable is called Goya (ゴーヤ) or Nigauri (にがうり).

The bitter melon is dressed with tofu and sesame sauce, and it’s not only healthy and light but also delicious!  The tofu and sesame flavor makes the “bitterness” very gentle and mild, so if you are not a fan of bitter melon this recipe could change your mind.

When I was growing up in Japan, bitter melon wasn’t a common vegetable except for Okinawa and Kyushu island.  Because of the recent popularity of Okinawan food, bitter melon is now available throughout the Japan.

Goya Champuru, a stir fry dish with goya (bitter melon), egg, tofu and pork/spam, has become one of the most popular Okinawan dishes that are featured on the TV cooking shows and are available at restaurants in the main land.

Bitter Melon Salad | JustOneCookbook.com

Because my mom didn’t cook this vegetable, I was a late bloomer.  After I moved to the U.S., I had seen this interesting vegetable all the time at Asian markets and one day I decided to buy one to cook.

My first attempt with bitter melon wasn’t good.  I can’t recall how I prepared it but all I remember was the unique bitterness of this vegetable.  I have been occasionally eating bitter melon dishes at Chinese restaurants, but until recently I didn’t try cooking it again.

Bitter Melon Salad | JustOneCookbook.com

I gave another try last year after a few of my readers requested a recipe using bitter melon (thank you!).  This time I knew how I wanted to prepare – shiraae style.

When tofu is mashed and mixed with sesame seeds and other condiments, the dressing or sauce is called shiraae (白和え).  The nutty tofu flavor is exceptionally wonderful with fresh green vegetable.

There are many variations of shiraae too, depending on what kind of condiments you want to add.  I used miso for my Green Bean Shiraae recipe and used sesame oil for this recipe to increase more nutty flavor.

Hope you enjoy bitter melon and nutty tofu shiraae combination!

Bitter Melon Salad | JustOneCookbook.com

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Bitter Melon Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 bitter melon
  • 1 firm or momen tofu
Seasonings
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 4 Tbsp. roasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce
  • 1½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
Instructions
  1. Open the tofu package and drain the tofu.
  2. Cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with spoon.
  3. Slice thinly. I like my vegetable crunchy so I cut into ⅛ inch pieces, but you can cut thinner as well.
  4. Cook the bitter melon in the salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes (depending on your liking) and drain well.
  5. Soak the bitter melon in cold water for 5 minutes, then drain really well.
  6. Meanwhile wrap the tofu with paper towel on top of a large plate. Microwave the tofu for 2 minutes (1000 Watt) to further drain the water. Discard the excess water and let it cool.
  7. Grate the ginger to have about 1 tsp. including juice.
  8. Grind the roasted white sesame seeds well. You can leave some sesame seeds ungrounded for texture.
  9. Combine all the seasoning ingredients in a large bowl and mix all together.
  10. Add the cooled tofu and mix well. Then add the bitter melon (if necessary, you can wipe off the extra moisture with paper towel so it won’t dilute the sauce).
  11. Mix all together. You can serve at room temperature or you can chill for half an hour before serving. It gets watery from the tofu so I highly recommend serving soon.
Notes
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

 

 

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  1. I have to say, I’m not a fan of bitter melon. Its pretty common in Indian cooking, especially because it is supposed to have all sorts of health benefits…but I have always found it too bitter for me. I do like your use of ground sesame in a salad – I’m going to try that out. It sounds tasty.

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  2. I am a fan of bitter melon and have them most often in soups, stir-fries, steamed dishes; but as it is considered “cooling” food by Chinese, I usually have it more often in summer. I like the tofu-sesame sauce you made. Looks like I need to add salads in future for my bitter melon repertoire :)

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  3. Bitter melon is a unique ingredient in my experience and the preparation method share is intriguing but I don’t know that I’d be brave enough to give it a try. :)

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  4. Adil loves bitter gourd, we make it with loads of onions and sugar to balance the bitter taste.. I am not much of a fan though. But it is believed that it is actually good for you and can help in controlling diabetes…
    Anyway the way you have made this looks very interesting.. I will sure try this recipe

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  5. Jayne

    This is a very interesting way to prepare bittergourd! We had it on occasion at home when I was young… not nearly as often because my siblings can’t handle it’s bitterness, even when my mom almost got rid of every trace. What I’ve learnt to do is to slice the gourd really thinly and rub it with a heavy dose of salt and white sugar and let it sit in a colander in a pan. The salt and sugar draws out the bitterness and juices, kinda like pickling it. After about 15 minutes, I’d give it a good wash then proceed to cook it. I love it in egg drop soup, or stirfried with salted duck egg. I’ll give your tofu version a try. Seems very easy and healthy.

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  6. Serena

    Don’t know if I can find bitter melon here Nami, but I have some homemade tofu left in the fridge. I’ll try with a different vegetable, maybe with a slightly bitter one like a radish called “Scorzonera”. I’m very happy for this new tofu recipe anyway. Thank you Nami :-)

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  7. I have a bitter sweet relationship with bitter gourd. I grew up hating it, and then fell in love with once I was all grown up, hahaha! I have cooked it with poppy seed paste, but sesame looks very interesting. I am going to give this a try.

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  8. Hi Nami! I love bitter melon (we call it bitter gourd here). Usually we will slice this thinly and stir fry with egg.

    Another recipe that I like is to braise the bitter gourd (chunky sections) with pork in soya. Very nice with rice.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  9. i’ve yet to discover the joys of eating bitter gourd/melon, despite many attempts ^^|| looking at your pics, and your comments on how un-bitter this dish is, i’m almost convinced to try again ^^

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  10. Oh I love bitter melon! Filipinos call it ‘ampalaya’ and we have lots of recipes for it. My mom made this a lot when we were growing up. It’s highly nutritious. It’s also very good for diabetes and I think to prevent cancer (thought not sure on the latter). But it was for health reasons that my parents encouraged us to eat it regularly. Glad you have it here with tofu, which I love, too. Thanks for sharing this recipe – it’s an entree in itself. I will try it soon.

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  11. Beautiful photographs and such a unique recipe. I would have never imagined that bitter melon looked like that! Thank you for sharing with me tonight. I just ate a delicious dinner and I’m already hungry again :-) I hope you are having a great start to your week!

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  12. Susan

    I like bitter melon cooked Chinese style, with pork, either in black bean sauce or soy sauce. I didn’t like it until recently, as an adult. I will try this salad!

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    • Hi Susan! I’ve been eating several kinds of bitter melon dishes in Chinese restaurant and they are all pretty delicious. But agree, it took me a several attempt until I start serving bitter melon dishes to my late. Hope you enjoy this dish! :)

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  13. I love bitter gourd, this looks like a refreshing way to prepare it. I usually either stir fry it with egg, or with pork and black bean sauce. It’s also wonderful in soup boiled with pork ribs.

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  14. I have never heard of bitter melon Nami and I can tell you with alsmost 100% certainty that it doesn’t circulate here! But you made a fine salad and even though I won’t be able to try and make it i can always admire it through the net! Have a beautiful day!

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  15. I’ve never had goya, since my Japanese side of the family isn’t from the areas that use it. I’ve always thought it looked pretty cut into half-moons. I guess I will have to try it!

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  16. Nami, this is totally new territory for me – I had never heard of bitter melon before but the pictures speak for themselves and I am sure that this is another one of your utterly delicious recipes! Besides, now I am really curious to taste this vegetable!
    Have a great Wednesday!

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  17. You won’t believe it Nami, but I was at the green grocers with Alfie this afternoon and he saw a bitter melon and he asked me, ‘Is it really bitter?’ and ‘Can we buy one?’ and ‘Is it like water melon’. And the terrible thing is; I had absolutely no idea because although I have heard of bitter melon, I don’t think I’ve ever tried it. Thanks for inspiring me to cook with bitter melon so I can continue to educate my 7 yr old ! xx

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  18. Thank you, Nami-san, for this intro to ゴーヤ. I’ve yet to try bitter melon. But mixed with your delicious combo of tofu and sesame seeds this dish looks as though deliciousness is guaranteed!

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  19. I’ve always been curious about bitter gourd… I’ve never had it, but have seen it for sale a couple times in a local Asian market. I do enjoy bitter flavors though, so I should give it a try. I like the sesame here.

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  20. I definitely need to try bitter melon sometime. It’s at all of the Asian grocery stores, so it’s easy enough to find. It’s just something I haven’t gotten around to trying, and I really should. Great looking salad. And with the tofu, quite nutritious. Good stuff – thanks.

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  21. First time when I tried bitter melon was last year, and in a juice form…oh boy hehe that was interesting! 😀
    I see how you combined each ingr. to make it less bitter, and I will probably try making it because it does sound delicious. Thanks for sharing and have a lovely day!

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  22. I am so excited to see this dish on your site, Nami! I had the exact same bitter gourd dish at an Okinawan restaurant in Singapore before. That was the first time I learnt that Okinawan cuisine is heavily influenced by the Chinese. What stood out to me was the unique touches of Japanese cooking which makes it special. I often cook it with eggs. Your tofu version sounds fantastic! I need to share this with my mom since she cooks bitter gourd very often. I am confident that she will enjoy this version.

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  23. 体に良さそうな料理ですね。この頃息子が料理するので、ダイエットの邪魔(?)になって困るのよねえ。 主にアメリカン ばかりだし、、、これって変な悩みですよね。なみちゃんは教え方が丁寧で、えらい!

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  24. This looks delicious Nami! The look reminds me so much of a Mexican dish, but we don’t eat bitter melon. I keep looking to find some bitter melon here but haven’t been lucky yet. Thanks for sharing!:)

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  25. Very interesting preparation on bitter melon. Growing up I hated it but mom, dad would make sure I ate my portion of bitter melon for the all health benefit it offers. I have come to like it once in a while now. Will definitely try this recipe.

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  26. Nami, this is a perfect recipe for me. Last year I tried bitter melon for the first time and fell in love with it (I know, my taste is weird: I don’t like sweets, but bitter and other food attracts me!) :) I didn’t know what to do with it so I just cleaned it and ate in my salads. Next season I will definitely try this recipe! Thanks.

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  27. Bitter melon is definitely something that I am not at all familiar with. I’ve seen a recipe here and there, but just the word “bitter” has never been something that appeals to me. I have a hard time with bitter. So I guess what I’m asking is “Is this really bitter or just a name?” I’m a huge fan of sesame in every way, shape and form, so I’m sure that alone makes this dish quite good! A very interesting dish Nami.

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  28. What a fantastic way to prepare bitter melon! I am a huge fan of bitter melon. During each summer I probably average 2 or 3 lbs of bitter melon each week on average!! Now I really have to get some of this this weekend. Great recipe!

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  29. Helen

    bitter melon with beef and black bean sauce was one of my fav dishes growing up. a tip from my mom is to toss the melon in some salt and let them sweat for a bit to release some of their bitterness. Then rinse and cook :)

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    • Hi Helen! Thank you so much for your tip! I’ll try that next time. I boiled with salted water so I thought I could skip that process. Maybe the bitterness may totally disappear if I do salt treatment one more time. :)

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  30. Nami, You always seem to have the ability to make intimidating ingredients seem approachable! I think you should teach cooking courses one day. :) I think that with you by my side I could prepare Fugu! 😉 Perhaps one day I will give bitter melon a try and you will be my inspiration.

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  31. Beautiful! I tasted bitter melon in Tokyo (I think I have tasted more new food in one week than during the previous 5 years here 😉 ) and I really liked it as a snack with drinks. It was very awakening 😉 I see it here regularly in my Vietnamese shop, but I have always been afraid to buy it so thank you so much for all the tips and perfect step-by-step photos. You read my mind, as always!

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  32. Kitty

    We are able to grow this each summer since we have such a long growing season. We always have more than enough and are able to freeze some for use during winter. My husband loves bitter melon but it’s not my favorite. In fact he likes anything bitter and favors eggplant varieties which tend to be on the bitter side.

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    • Hi Kitty! I never knew we can freeze bitter melon! Thank you for letting me know. Your bitter melon must be really good, especially you grow in your garden! Thank you so much for your kind comment, Kitty! :)

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  33. Hi Nami,
    In Indian cooking we use bitter melon and I love it. We tend to use a lot of onions to mask the bitter taste as onions are naturally sweet.
    I would love to try this dish. Looks amazing!

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  34. Lovely, Nami! I’ve had bitter melon in Indian dishes before but not Japanese. I look forward to trying your recipe! The tofu and sesame dressing sounds fantastic – I’m sure I’m going to like this one!

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  35. Nami, oh, I don’t know about bitter gourd…I applaud you for being brave cooking and eating this! I can never seem to enjoy this particular vegetable. Filipinos and Chinese use bitter melons quite often, but I just never got used to it. Maybe one day I will open up to this gourd…

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  36. I like so many things about this dish- the bitter melon, tofu, spices, sesame oil and fresh look of this salad! Lovely recipe Nami 😉 Thanks for your tips on how to prepare the bitter melon, I see it all the time in the market but hesitate to pick one up to try making at home;-)

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  37. Hi Nami – I never tried bitter gourd. I saw it once in a Chinese supermarket last year but chickened out of buying it because I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It looks fantastic… like a super crunchy cucumber with a slightly tough skin… that’s how I imagine it to be at least. Next time I see it I’ll be sure to grab one (or five) and get to working with it because they look so fun to cook with… all knobbly and gnarly! :)

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  38. I purchased bitter melon a while back and did not do anything with it. I buy things that I know nothing about, to learn, but time passed and it had expired. I am so happy to see this recipe. The tofu sauce sounds great for any vegetable, like zucchini.
    LL

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  39. Hello Nami-san, I also made bitter melon once and had a bad experience so have never done it again. It is a rather funny looking vegetable, don’t you think? I think boiling it instead of stir frying it and then soaking it removes some of its strong taste. I will have to give your version a try. Take care, BAM

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  40. I was growing up eating bitter melons, but this is absolutely new to me. Bitter melon and tofu sound like an interesting combination. Now as it gets warmer here in Tokyo I saw a lot of fresh bitter melons in the market. I have to try this.

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  41. What an interesting sauce! I tried bitter melon, but BF didn’t like it because it was too bitter… Maybe this will convince him?

    PS first time I see the new layout and love it!

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  42. Kisa

    Can I used uncooked bitter gourd to make this dish? I’ve tried eating raw bitter gourd – it was a dare I accepted in a moment of madness – and I found that it wasn’t as bitter as a cooked one. Or, maybe the bitter gourd I ate was not a very bitter one. But I still remember the taste of it, and it wasn’t at all bad.

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    • Hi Kisa! I’ve only had cooked bitter melon so I’m not sure how it’s like. Unless you slice very thinly and sprinkle salt to make it soft, the texture difference between hard bitter melon and soft tofu won’t match inside your mouth. One ingredient is crunchy and the other mushy… you know what I mean? If you don’t mind the difference and liked the raw version, I think it works? :)

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  43. Dear Nami,

    Chinese recipes usually stir-fry bitter gourd with thin slices of beef and black bean or use it in hotpots and I have never read any other interesting bitter gourd recipes until this one.

    This looks like it can be a quick, easy, healthy and very tasty lunch and I am going to email this to my mum coz she loves salads. Great presentation and photography as usual.

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  44. S. Howard

    Hi Nami! I am anxious to try this recipe, but I have a couple of questions. Could I make the dressing using sesame paste instead of grinding the sesame seeds myself? If so, how much paste would be the correct substitution?

    I don’t have a way to grind the seeds, but I found a jar of white sesame paste at the local Asian grocery store, and I have everything else that’s listed already.

    Thanks for sharing this, and all your other wonderful dishes!

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    • I assume sesame paste is very smooth texture so I recommend you to add some sesame seeds to add texture. Even though I ground the seeds, there are some rough texture to it and it blends very well with smooth and soft tofu. If there are only sesame paste and tofu, I feel it’s missing something. To replace the ground sesame seeds, I’m not sure how much paste you need to add. You can try first with 3-4 Tbsp. and mix with tofu, but you probably don’t need to add sesame oil as the paste should have some oil in it. Or you may need to add a little bit but definitely not 2 Tbsp. like this recipe said. I really hope it will work! It’s hard to imagine without trying the recipe myself, and I only know Japanese sesame paste and don’t know other kinds. Good luck and I hope you enjoy this recipe!

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  45. I haven’t dared try to cook bitter melon for the boyfriend yet. It’s an acquired taste and I’m not sure he’ll like it, haha.. I really like bitter melon soup though!

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  46. Hi Nami

    Im Korean, farmer in Korea, I saw your bitter melon salad cook information.
    so can I introduce your blog of bitter melon salad to my blog?
    if you ok I will soo thanks to you.

    many thanks

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    • Hi Kim Si Ho様

      Thank you so much for asking for my permission. Yes I’ll be happy if you could introduce my bitter melon salad recipe on your blog. Thank you very much!

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