One of my all-time favourite local dish is stewed bitter gourd with chicken and black beans. Recently, my mum decided on the spur of the moment to cook up the dish so I had an impromtu cooking lesson.
Bitter gourd (Peria in Malay and Foo Gwah in Chinese) is a dish that is an acquired taste as some people avoid it due to it's bitterness. In fact, it was not a favourite of mine when I was young as I felt it was too bitter. However, after trying it a few times, I grew to like eating it and it's a firm favourite of mine now. Bitter gourd contains loads of healthy vitamin A, B1, B2 and C and minerals like calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper and potassium. The Chinese and even Ayurvedic practitioners believe that the bittergourd has detoxification properties that help cleanse your blood, enhance your digestion and improve your liver condition.
For the Chinese, bitter gourd is popularly used in Yong Tau Foo where it is stuffed with fish paste and then fried. It can also be stewed with black beans with chicken or pork ribs. You can also make an open faced omelette with bitter gourd and prawns . The Indians usually slice the bitter gourd thinly and fry them after dusting them with a light batter. It complements your banana leaf rice perfectly. However, not all Indian restaurants do it well, as some have too thick a batter or don't taste freshly fried. For me, I am especially partial to the ones made by Achas in Section 5, Petaling Jaya which I think are the best I have tasted so far.
This recipe can be made with chicken or pork ribs. The black beans add flavour to the bitter gourd which is softened by simmering it under a slow fire for about 20 to 25 minutes.
Stewed Bitter Gourd and Chicken with Black Beans
1 large bitter gourd, approximately 300 to 400 grams
400 grams of chicken whole legs, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic, minced
a knob of ginger the size of 1/2 inch, minced
1 tbsp of black beans
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 cup water
Halve the bittergourd lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a spoon and cut into 3mm slices at a slant. As some people find the gourd too bitter, you can try this method to remove some of it's bitterness. Sprinkle salt into bittergourd slices and leave aside for five minutes. Rinse off salt and drain.
Heat oil in a wok and fry the ginger and garlic till fragrant. Rinse the black beans in water and chop them roughly. Mix these with the ginger and garlic mixture and stir fry. Add the cut up chicken and bitter gourd and mix the ginger, garlic and black beans thoroughly. Keep stir frying it for a two minutes, then pour in the water. Add the sugar and oyster sauce and mix it in. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered. Check constantly to make sure there is sufficient gravy and add water if necessary. Once the gravy turns thick and the bitter gourd has softened, you can turn it off. Dish and serve.
Stir frying the ginger, garlic, black beans and bitter gourd. Slight variation to the recipe, my mum had earlier cooked a batch of stewed bitter gourd with chicken and black beans but she wanted to add more bitter gourd, so she cooked up a batch and stewed it first before mixing in the old batch.
Final product of the stewed bitter gourd and chicken with black beans. Note that we had a slight mishap during cooking as we ran out of gas, so we had to switch to a pot and use the electric hob to cook the bitter gourd and chicken.
The dish was YUMMY!! Kept picking out the bitter gourd instead as that's the best part of the dish. If you have leftovers, keep them in the fridge as the dish tastes even nicer the next day when heated up and served with piping hot rice.