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How to Cook: Sauteed Bitter Melon or Ampalaya Guisado

Updated on March 14, 2016
queen cleopatra profile image

After living in the city for 30 years, EC moved to the countryside. He writes about life in the mountains, dogs, plants, and cooking.

Ampalaya con Beef - Bitter melon and carrots sauteed in beef chunks and black beans
Ampalaya con Beef - Bitter melon and carrots sauteed in beef chunks and black beans

Bitter Melon as Everyday Veggie

Ampalaya is the Filipino term for bitter melon. This is one of the most bitter vegetables, and maybe the ugliest due to the wart-like bumps on its skin.

Anyone claiming that bitter melon is a favorite veggie would be considered as unusual. Most people do not like the bitter and pungent taste of bitter melon or bitter gourd.

Yet some people eat the unripe ampalaya fruit raw and fresh and with seeds. Some drink it as tea or juice or even as softdrink. Although one would wonder if this could be for the sake of personal health only or a feat in gastronomic adventure…

Good thing, there is a secret way of cooking ampalaya to reduce its bitter taste – without soaking in salty water and squeezing out most of the nutrients along with the juices.

Whole Bitter Melon or Ampalaya Fruits (Photo Credit: roland / flickr)
Whole Bitter Melon or Ampalaya Fruits (Photo Credit: roland / flickr)
Ampalaya Plant with Flower (Photo Credit: Eran Finkle / flickr)
Ampalaya Plant with Flower (Photo Credit: Eran Finkle / flickr)

Ampalaya Has Side Effects

CAUTION: Too much of a good thing may cause danger.

People with diabetes medication that affects blood sugar should avoid taking bitter melon supplements without consulting their doctor.

Seeds of bitter melon contain toxic substances that may harm young children and unborn babies.

Bitter Melon or Ampalaya - Nutritional Value

Ampalaya is a good source of Vitamins C, E, K, and B complex, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosporous, potassium, sodium and zinc. It also contains small amounts of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar, and fat.

The shape and color varies but it is usually elongated and green when harvested for cooking purposes. Some are light green or white in color and round in shape.

Medicinal Value

Bitter melon (Momordica charantia) is a vegetable that has so many medicinal claims that eating it is a must -- at least for those invididuals who have no blood sugar issues.

The Turkish soaks the bitter melon fruit in honey or olive oil to use as home remedy for stomach ailment.

The bitter melon leaves boiled and made into tea is used to prevent malaria, measles, and chicken pox in most Asian countries.

Some tests reveal that the a protein substance called lectin found in ampalaya may help treat HIV infection. Studies shown bitter melon seeds may have cardioprotective effect.

In the Philippines, a substance called charantin extracted from the bitter melon was believed to have hypoglycaemic effect on diabetic subjects and help increase sensitivity to insulin. Since 2007, ampalaya was processed into food supplement tablets and extracts to induce decrease in insulin and blood sugar levels.

Further researches claim that bitter melon extract may help kill breast cancer cells.

Other illnesses that bitter melon has been used for treatment: scabies, menstruation pain, skin burns, fever, dysentery, colic, and other skin problems. Also used to help child birth as well as birth control.

Pork Meat
Pork Meat
Bitter Melons Cut into Halves
Bitter Melons Cut into Halves
Tomatoes and Onion
Tomatoes and Onion
White Eggs
White Eggs
Rock Salt
Rock Salt

Quick Sauteed Ampalaya Recipe


  • 4 cups sliced ampalaya, washed and drained as whole
  • 1 cup meat chunks, pork or beef
  • 1 cup shrimp, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 piece boullion, crushed
  • 3 white eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt, to taste

How to:

  1. In a wok or large sauté pan, heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat.
  2. Stir-fry meat chunks until light brown. Push to one side.
  3. Sauté garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Add shrimps. Mix all ingredients. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add ampalaya. Do not stir. Make sure the heat is put to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Again, do not stir. Use a wooden spatula to carefully ‘flip’ the ampalaya slices. The goal is to move the content below toward the top without much stirring done.
  6. Sprinkle crushed boullion. Cover and cook for 2 minutes.
  7. Add ½ cup water. Mix in the beaten eggs using the ‘flipping’ motion.
  8. Cover and cook until it started to boil.
  9. Remove from heat before adding salt. To avoid stirring, add a bit of salt in different levels.
  10. Pour cooked ampalaya in a platter and cool before serving.

Bitter Melon or Ampalaya - Seeds Removed and Sliced
Bitter Melon or Ampalaya - Seeds Removed and Sliced

Lock the Nutrients (and the Bitter Taste) Inside Ampalaya with Proper Cooking and Preparation

How to Prepare Bitter Melon:

  1. Choose matured bitter melon fruits, which usually has large bumps and lighter color skin.
  2. Wash whole fruits before chopping.
  3. Cut into very thin slices to cook faster. Using a sharp kitchen knife is very important.

When Cooking Bitter Melon:

  1. Cook over low heat.
  2. Do not stir while cooking.
  3. Do not add salt or other seasoning while cooking.
  4. Serve warm not hot.


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    • peachpurple profile image


      5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      oh i love bitter melon, this is unique style of stir fry

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      I regard ampalaya as my lifelong friend being a diabetic. I grow this vine in my backyard, make tea with its leaves and sun-dried fruits, and have it prepared as my veggie menu in every way I think of. Fish with ampalaya, chicken with ampalaya, pork and beef with ampalaya, eggs with ampalaya, and more! This way, I keep my insulin working properly to lower my blood glucose level. I had a nice view of your photos. I learned more from this hub. Vote up and useful!

    • queen cleopatra profile imageAUTHOR

      EC Mendoza 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you jojokaya.

    • jojokaya profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I love bitter gourd, a little bitter but its good

    • queen cleopatra profile imageAUTHOR

      EC Mendoza 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks Thelma :) That was fast. You just made my day! Happy Valentine's Day :D

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      9 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      Yummy! I fell hungry now. I love Ampalaya especially when it is roasted on the open fire. I love Ampalaya tea,too. It is good for stomach pain. Voted up!


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