Beef with Bitter Melon
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Beef with bitter melon is one of the most common Chinese bitter melon recipes out there, stir-fried with black bean sauce and served over hot steamed rice.
Recipe type: Beef
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 4 servings
You'll need:
  • 1 pound beef, sliced against the grain (flank steak works well)
  • 2 medium bitter melons
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1½ tablespoons shaoxing wine
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water or chicken stock (optional)
To marinate the beef:
  • 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing wine
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  1. Start by mixing the sliced beef with the marinade ingredients (cornstarch, baking soda, oyster sauce, shaoxing wine, and light soy sauce). Marinate the beef for 20 minutes.
  2. To prepare the bitter melon, cut each melon in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Scrape all the white parts clean, because the white parts cause the bitterness. Then slice the melon on a 45-degree angle into thin slices.
  3. Prepare an ice bath and set aside. Boil a pot of water, and stir in 1 tablespoon each of salt and baking soda. Blanch the bitter melon for 1 minute, and use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the bitter melon to the ice bath. Drain and set aside.
  4. Preheat the wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and sear the beef for about 45 seconds. Remove from the wok and set aside.
  5. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok over medium heat. Cook the garlic and black beans for a minute. Turn up the heat to high (this gives the dish that necessary wok-hay flavor), and add the bitter melon, stir frying quickly. Now add the shaoxing wine, sugar, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and white pepper. Stir and mix everything well.
  6. Now add the beef and chicken stock (if you like more sauce), stir-frying and salting to taste. At this point, I usually like to cover the wok and let the dish cook for one more minute. Cooking the bitter melon until it’s tender doesn’t make this the prettiest dish in your arsenal, but it definitely makes the dish tastier and the bitter melon less bitter!
Recipe by The Woks of Life at