Amplaya (or Bitter Gourd) is one of my favorite vegetables. When I lived in Manila, my mom and I used to cook this every week. This dish was usually a Saturday treat for me.
Now that I’m married and cooking for our meals at home, I cook this in bulk once every fortnight which usually equals to 3 servings. I keep the other two servings in containers, put them in the fridge and we eat them in the next coming days as a siding to any meat or fish dish during dinner.
I’m grateful that my Husband generally eats vegetables. Although he eats Ampalaya, it is not his favorite vegetable which I understand. As we all know, Ampalaya is not a loveable vegetable because of its bitter taste. However, I was able to find a way to make it more likeable to my Husband’s taste buds—by adding in a few teaspoons of honey. Yes, honey makes it a little more sweeter. And according to my Husband, it is healthier than adding sugar (which I used to do).
Other ways to make Ginisang Ampalaya a little less bitter and boring:
(1) Before cooking, soak in water with salt for 10-20 minutes and squeeze some of its juice out. Some people don’t squeeze it anymore but I squeeze it at least once coz it does lessen the bitterness a bit.
(2) Add egg. When I was a kid, my mom used to add egg and it made it bearable for me.
(3) Add tofu or shrimp instead of pork. My Husband loves it too when I add tofu, so once in a while I saute the ampalaya with tofu.
(4) Use other seasonings like soy sauce, fish sauce or a teaspoon of shrimp paste (bagoong). One of these days, I will try using herbs to give it some other flavor and aroma.
(5) If you don’t have honey, you can use sugar as a substitute.
As for me, my favorite kind of Ginisang Ampalaya is one that has Okra. I know Okra is another vegetable that not so many people like, but I really really like Okra and I usually add it whenever I saute any vegetables. I don’t mind the taste of these two vegetables whenever I eat them. I love them because of their healthy benefits and I focus more on the good nutrients they give to our body.
What about you? How do you like your Ampalaya?