Rabbit-Stuffed Bitter Melon

 
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Growing up, I remember helping my mom in her garden. It was the only place I’d ever seen a bitter melon, and they seemed gigantic and alien to me. She’d stuff them with ground pork, noodles, and wood ear mushrooms, and serve them sliced with more noodles and broth. I didn’t like it much as a kid- the bitter melon lives up to its name- but I loved the filling.

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As I got older, the astringent, medicinal quality of the bitter melon became more palatable. There’s something about bitter food that makes you feel good after you eat it, and now, Rachel and I make this dish anytime we’re feeling run down, under the weather, or just because. There’s a whole bunch of literature out there about its health benefits and use as a natural medicine, but we don’t make any claims to that. All I know is I feel better after I eat it, and even though it may be a little bit of an acquired taste, we crave it.

This dish is all about food memory for me. My version differs from my mother’s- I make it with rabbit (squirrel works just as well) and pork fat. You really need the fat here- without it, the filling is dry and crumbly. We use any leftover filling for wontons, dumplings, or spring rolls. You can eat them steamed, sliced into rounds as-is, but we like them in a bowl with plenty of noodles and rabbit broth.

 
 

Rabbit-Stuffed Bitter Melon

Save the rabbit bones, roast them with some aromatics and make a stock. Season with soy and fish sauce, and serve the sliced bitter melon in the broth with rice noodles. We usually stuff 2-4 bitter melons, and use the rest of the stuffing for spring rolls, wontons, or dumplings.


Prep time: 1 Hour

Serves: 8-12

 

Ingredients:

600g deboned rabbit or squirrel, cubed for grinder

200g pork fat, cubed for grinder

Grind rabbit and pork fat together through coarse die, then again through fine die.


4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5” ginger, peeled, minced

1 medium yellow onion minced

1 cup rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 cup bean thread noodles, cooked (cellophane noodles)

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp sambal

1 egg

1 tsp salt

4-6 bitter melons, cut crosswise, hollowed out of seeds and pith**



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Method:

Combine ground meat and all other ingredients and mix well. To hollow out the bitter melon, cut them into rounds 2-3 inches long, and use a spoon to scoop out the pith and seeds from the center. Stuff the ground meat mixture inside. Steam for 15-20 minutes until bitter melon is tender and meat reaches 165F.

Cut the bitter melon rounds into ¼” discs and serve with stock and rice noodles.