When shopping for this veggie stirfry from Bad Saint, the tiny Filipino restaurant in Columbia Heights, look for Chinese bitter melons, not the smaller and bumpier Indian variety. And when seasoning the dish, keep in mind that the black-bean confit is already fairly salty.
Serves 4 as a side dish
2 large, firm Chinese bitter melons
½ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup sliced red onions
4 tomatoes on the vine, quartered
1 cup bean sprouts
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 heaping tablespoons Chinese black-bean confit (see recipe)
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cut the bitter melon in ½ lengthwise. Use the tip of a large spoon to scrape out the seeds and fibrous material in the middle. Slice the bitter melon crosswise to ¼ inch thickness and place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, and toss until the melon is thoroughly coated. Line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel. Transfer the bitter melon to the colander and let sit for 30 minutes (this step gets rid of the melon’s bitterness). Rinse the melon with cold water to remove the salt. Taste it—if it is too salty, rinse again. Squeeze the melon gently with a kitchen towel to remove excess water. Set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a wok or 10-inch sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add the red onions, and sauté until translucent. Add the bitter melon and tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes have softened. Add the bean sprouts and continue to sauté, then add the lemon juice. Add 3 heaping tablespoons of the black-bean confit, and toss quickly until thoroughly incorporated.
Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk thoroughly. Add the eggs to the pan and toss until the eggs have coated the vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Chinese Black-Bean Confit
1 cup dried Chinese black beans (packed in salt, but free of other seasonings like garlic or spices; the restaurant likes Golden Lion brand)
1 pint canola oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed with skins on
1 2-inch knob ginger, peeled and smashed
In a cold 1-quart saucepot, combine the dried black beans with the canola oil, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container until ready to use. You’ll have some confit left over, but you can use it for up to a year.