The Happy Home Cook: Beef Ampalaya and Shrimp Ampalaya

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As I was growing up, I was told that ampalaya (bitter melon) is good for me. I never knew why. Now science has proven that ampalaya contains properties that make the pancreas produce more insulin and is a good source of vitamins A, B, and C and iron, folic acid, and calcium. It is also rich in anti-oxidants.
 Ampalaya (bitter melon) (Source: wikipedia.org)

Ampalaya (bitter melon) (Source: wikipedia.org)

Tip:

I prefer my ampalaya bitter but most don’t. There are many ways to reduce the bitterness of the ampalaya. One is to sprinkle  the ampalaya pieces with salt, let stand for about 20 minutes and rinse before cooking, The salt will draw out the bitterness from the ampalaya. You also have to make sure you core the ampalaya completely removing all the seeds and as much of the thin white membrane as possible. But my Auntie Columbia had the best solution. She told me her secret is that she never cooks ampalaya when she is in a foul mood. Apparently, when you are happy while cooking, the bitterness goes away. I tried this and it really works.

Ampalaya con Carne 

Bitter Melon with Beef

Ingredients

1 1/2 lb beef sirloin, sliced into thin strips
1 large ampalaya (bitter melon);  washed, cored and cut in half lengthwise and then cut into diagonal strips, about 1/4” thick
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Salt, pinch
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small thumb ginger, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small tomato, diced
1 1/2 tsp tausi (salted soy bean) 
1/2  cup water or more if necessary
5 tablespoons cooking oil

Procedure

Combine soy sauce, salt, ground black pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Marinade beef strips in this mixture for about an hour in refrigerator.  This allows the beef to tenderize and absorb the flavors.

Heat a frying pan or wok and add 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. When the oil is hot enough, pan fry the marinated beef in medium heat until the outer part turns medium to dark brown (about 3 to 5 minutes per side). Remove browned beef from pan and add remaining oil. Once oil is hot, sauté garlic until fragrant,  then add onion and continue to sauté until translucent, add ginger and sauté until fragrant and softened and then add the diced tomato and continue sautéing until tomato is softened. Stir in the ampalaya pieces and stir fry for about 3 minutes until cooked. It should still be crunchy and retain its bright green color.  Mix in  the tausi (soy bean) and allow to heat up a bit, then stir in the beef, Add 1/2 cup of water(you may need more if you want a saucier dish) and cover the pan. Let simmer for 5 minutes more until beef is fully cooked and tender. The sauce will thicken up a bit. Serve hot.

 Beef Ampalaya (Source: pinoychow.com)

Beef Ampalaya (Source: pinoychow.com)

Here is a typical variation of this dish where shrimp is used. With just changing the main protein, a new dish is formed

Ampalaya con Hipon 

Bitter Melon with Shrimp

Ingredients

1 lb medium shrimp, shelled and devined.
1 large ampalaya (bitter melon);  washed, cored and cut in half lengthwise and then cut into diagonal strips, about 1/4” thick
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 small thumb ginger, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small tomato, diced
1 to 2 tsp patis (fish sauce), to taste
1/2 c water (or more, if necessary)
1 egg, beaten
5 tablespoons cooking oil

Procedure

Combine soy sauce, salt, ground black pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil. Marinade shrimp in this mixture for about an hour in refrigerator.

Heat a frying pan or wok and add 3 tablespoons of cooking oil. When the oil is hot enough, sauté garlic until fragrant,  then add onion and continue to sauté until translucent, add ginger and sauté until fragrant and softened and then add the diced tomato and continue sautéing until tomato is softened. Stir in the ampalaya pieces and stir fry for about 5 minutes. It should still be crunchy, Stir in shrimp and saute until just pink.  Add 1/2 cup of water(you may need more if you want a saucier dish) and patis to taste. Cover the pan. Let simmer for 3 minutes more. The sauce will thicken up a bit.  Stir in beaten egg until cooked. Serve hot.

 Shrimp Ampalaya (Source: kawalingpinoy.com)

Shrimp Ampalaya (Source: kawalingpinoy.com)

First published in Ang Kusina ni Lola Alfonsa: http://filipinocuisineprimer.blogspot.com/2012/05/guinisa-saute.html


 Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan

Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan

Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan is a retired corporate director of accounting, payroll and compensation at OfficeMax (formerly Boise Cascade Office Products). An alumnus of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she now devotes her time to volunteer work and her travels, art, food, quilting and needle arts, which she writes about in her blogs, Finding Art and Ang Kusina ni Lola Alfonsa.


More articles from Jojo Sabalvaro-Tan:

Travel Sketching In The Holy Land
June 3, 2014
Why sketching can better preserve travel memories than souvenir pictures

Sketching Jordan
July 29, 2014
Sketching allows you to embrace the tastes, smells and sounds around you.