Every time mum makes stuffed bitter melon soup it always reminds me of Lunar New Year. This is a dish traditionally eaten during Vietnamese New Year (Tet). I find that eating such a bitter dish during new year is a contradiction to the red, sweet, happy things which is usually associated with new year celebrations. So I asked mum. She said that sometimes bitter melons are called kho qua (and also known as hu qua) in Vietnamese. Kho Qua which literally means “hardship over”. Kho means “hardship” and qua means “over”. Some believe that serving bitter melon during new year means that all the hardship will be consumed and a good year would come.
15g bean thread noodles
5g dried black fungus, soaked and cut into strips
200g ground pork
1/2 medium oninon, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 bitter melons
6 cups chicken stock
4 spring onion, green part only (leave full length and blanched in boiling water as this will be used as strings to tie the bitter melons)
1 spring onion, green part only, sliced (for garnishing)
1 tablespoon sliced corriander leaves (for garnishing)
Soak the bean thread noodles and black fungus strips separately in boiling water for 10 minutes. Roughly cut the bean thread noodles into 1-1/2-inch pieces and place in a bowl with the pork, black fungus, chopped onions, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, half the pepper, and the egg. Mix well and set aside.
Cut a length wise an opening on one side of the bitter melon deep through the seeds but not through the other side. Using a spoon, scoop out the soft white flesh and seeds of the bitter melons.
Fill the whole bitter melon with pork mixture.
Tie the both ends of the stuffed bitter melons with the blanched green onions.
Put the chicken stock in a large saucepan. Season the soup to taste with a bit of fish sauce and salt and bring to a boil.
Add the stuffed melon to the soup, return to a simmer, and cook for 25 minutes. The bitter melons are cooked when they turn from bright green to olive green.
To serve cut in half or small discs, and garnish with the green onions, coriander and ground pepper.