Getting rid of the bitter taste of bitter gourd / melon (ampalaya)

I’ll be very honest with you: I’m not a fan of ampalaya. I had an uncle who forced my cousins and I to eat ampalaya when we were young and it was very traumatic for me. My youngest cousin, six years younger than me, would soaked her share of ampalaya in patis (fish sauce) to drown out the bitterness. My solution was to drink lots of water with every mouthful of ampalaya. As an adult, even after all the marketing bombardment (that came with the development of ampalaya tablets and tea) about its health benefits, I still didn’t develop an acquired taste for it although all the oldies said it would come if I would just eat ampalaya on a regular basis. bitter gourd sliced in half lengthwise

I’m still trying. And after watching so many cooking shows where chefs sprinkle eggplants with salt to supposedly draw out the bitter juices (Eggplants are bitter? These people haven’t eaten ampalaya!), I decided to use the same technique to remove the bitterness of the ampalaya. Sounds more logical than precooking the ampalaya in salted water which would result in too much loss of nutrients. scraping off the seeds of the bitter gourd/melon

First, trim the ampalaya by cutting off both ends. Cut in half lengthwise. With a sturdy spoon, scape off the seeds and membranes. Cut into 1/4 inch slices, or thinner if you can manage it. adding salt to sliced bitter gourd

Place the sliced ampalaya in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt. salted bitter gourd

Toss to coat every piece of ampalaya with salt. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze out the juices, rinse and drain. Use in your preferred ampalaya dish.

The technique works — but only up to a certain point. A certain (though, I must admit, quite tolerable) amount of bitterness remains.


  1. says

    Hi Ms. Connie, another way my mom taught me to soak the ampalaya in water and salt for about an hour then drain it using a strainer. It works very well for me kasi I didnt like ampalaya din before eh. Namiss ko tuloy ang ampalaya dahil hindi sya available dito.

  2. A says

    Miss Connie, you should try to scrape off ALL the white pith inside. The pith adds tremendously to the bitterness. A caveat: it’s actually the bitterness that adds to the ampalaya’s anti-diabetic properties, it’s the enzymes in the plant. But even without the enzymes, ampalaya can still provide nutrients, although it wouldn’t be as potent. :P

  3. says

    I love ampalaya, even if it’s very bitter. I taught myself how to eat ampalaya years before. I ate it for a week – breakfast, lunch and dinner! Yup! It grows on you actually. I munch on it at dinner, kahit steamed lang with a hint of calamansi. Yum :)

  4. peterb says

    twopenneth, i also do that with the ampalaya.

    Connie, it doesn’t completely get rid of the bitterness but is reduced significantly. For me, I think it’s more of psychological..i still can’t eat it without drinking lots of water. The only time i ate ampalaya without drowning it in water was when i attended a party and they served it with shrimps as a salad. The ampalaya was sliced thinly then soaked in salted ice water before being washed and drained.

    Gay, wow…you thought yourself? I wonder if i can ever do that. Just thinking about it eh umaayaw na ko! Steamed w/ calamansi sounds interesting though. :)

    • says

      Idol si Gay, eh?

      I’m thinking of combining ampalaya with other (non-traditional) ingredients. You know, flavors that will blend with the bitterness so that even if it’s still there, it’ll be more palatable.

      • says

        Haha… it grows on you really. I taught myself to eat way back in the late 90s, I was still in Iligan and a kilo cost only seven pesos!