Time 1h 20m
For today's recipe, we revisited the classic Vietnamese stuffed bitter melon soup and gave it a plant-based spin. This comforting dish celebrates the unique taste of bitter gourd, and it's super easy to put together. Let us show you how to do it!
Also known as canh kho qua in Vietnamese, the traditional soup consists of bitter melon pieces stuffed with noodles, pork mince, and fish sauce and then simmered in broth until tender. Because it contains fish and meat, it's a no-go recipe for those on a plant-based diet. But don't worry, making a vegan version is easier than you'd think.
Thanks to tofu and soy sauce you have the perfect vegan alternative to pork and fish sauce. Firm tofu has a spongy texture similar to meat mince and an equivalent nutritional profile to it. Soy sauce it's salty and savoury, exactly like fish sauce. Blitz the two with shiitake mushrooms and sesame oil, and you'll get a delicious vegan filling for your bitter melons.
Another essential ingredient in stuffed bitter gourd soup is glass noodles. These super cool, transparent noodles are made from the starch of mung beans. They're also known as cellophane noodles or bean thread noodles, and you can find them at your local Asian food store. Glass noodles help hold the tofu filling together and give it an interesting chewy finish.
As for the bitter melons, we have to tell you beforehand that they're quite bitter (as the name says after all). But it's really a matter of personal taste: some people love them while others have trouble eating them. To reduce the gourd bitterness, we coated them with salt, which helps draw out the bitter juices. Also, we sweetened both the filling and the broth to balance out the flavours, but some of the bitterness will still remain.
Bitter melon is also known as bitter gourd or bitter squash, and it's a common ingredient in African, Caribbean, and South-East Asian cuisines. You should be able to find the Indian or Chinese variety at your local Asian food store. They taste quite similar, but the Indian type has a bumpier, jagged skin — and because it looks really cool, we chose it for our recipe! Ok now, time to put your apron on and get started!
- Glass Noodles
- Firm Tofu
- Shiitake Mushrooms
- Garlic Cloves
- Gluten-Free Soy Sauce
- Maple Syrup (or sugar)
- Sesame Oil
- Vegetable Stock
- Maple Syrup (or sugar)
- Spring Onions
- Large Bitter Melons
Trim off the ends of the bitter melon and discard them. Then, slice it into 4cm (1.5 inches) thick pieces.
Using a knife or a teaspoon, remove the seeds and scrape out the inner pulp.
Now, sprinkle the melon pieces with a generous amount of salt, coating them evenly on the inside and the outside.
The salt will help draw out some of the bitter juices from the melon slices.
Let them sit for 40 minutes, and then rinse them well.
In the meantime, soak the glass noodles in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes.
Then, drain them well and cut them into very small pieces using a pair of scissors or a knife.
Now, let's prepare the vegan filling.
Rinse, squeeze, and pat dry the tofu. Add it to a food processor, followed by shiitake mushrooms, garlic, soy sauce, maple syrup, and sesame oil (1).
Blitz all into a smooth and creamy mixture, and then mix it with the noodle pieces (2).
Use a teaspoon to stuff each bitter melon piece, packing it tightly with the prepared filling.
Pat the filling flat on both sides of the melon slices so it won't leak out while cooking in the broth.
Pour a little vegetable stock into a large pot.
Then, place the stuffed melon slices into the pot, arranging them in one layer and with the filling side up.
Carefully pour in the remaining stock until the melon is barely covered.
Then, tip in thinly sliced carrots and maple syrup.
Bring the broth to a gentle boil and then simmer the soup for 30 minutes over low heat.
Garnish your delicious vegan stuffed bitter melon soup with sliced spring onions and enjoy it with a side of steamed rice.
You can add a splash of rice vinegar to the soup to help reduce the melon bitterness.
If you have any leftover filling, shape into little dumplings, let them set in the fridge and then cook them in the soup.