In Japan, bitter melon is referred to as “goya”. Goya Champuru is a popular stir-fry dish hailing from the islands of Okinawa, combining thinly sliced goya with ham (or spam traditionally!), firm tofu, egg and a variety of other vegetables depending on the cook. This version is my husband Chris’s favorite and is the closest to the traditional classic. My favorite is vegetarian style which you can do by simply omitting the ham or replacing it with fried gluten, making it “fuu champuru”-“fuu” meaning wheat gluten. It also tastes great without the egg if you are vegan but do use soft (not silken) tofu broken up in place of firm tofu to mimic the custardy texture of the egg. This is true Island Food, Japanese-style! Enjoy!
Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish
1 medium bitter gourd or 2-3 small (Japanese is preferred for its bitterness but any kind will work!)
1 cup of ham diced into 1/2″ cubes or batons
1 block of firm tofu drained and diced into 1″ cubes or batons (in addition to or in place of ham)
1/2 cup mung or soy bean sprouts (not pictured ☹)
1 small dried chili pepper
2-3 clove garlic
2 green onions
A pinch or 2 of katsuobushi bonito flakes as garnish (optional)
Cut the bitter gourd in half lengthwise and spoon out the seeds and spongy white part. Don’t be too precious about the spongy bit, a little left on there is fine. Slice the bitter gourd 1/8″ thick and set to the side.
Dice the ham and/or tofu according to the size above or whatever size or shape you want and set aside.
Slice the garlic thinly.
Cut the green onions into 2 inch long pieces, then quarter lengthwise. Use the green parts too!
First prepare the eggs by making an omelette. Whisk 3 eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Heat about 2T oil up in a wide pan on medium high and just before it begins to smoke, pour the egg in a circular motion from the outside in, swirling the pan to keep it from sticking to the bottom. If you’re not confident with this, use a nonstick pan. Lower the heat slightly and allow it to cook until just set, then turn of the heat and cover to steam. After a couple of minutes it should be fully set. Transfer it carefully to a plate to cool, making sure it stays flat like a sheet. Once cooled enough to handle, cut the round sheet of egg into 1”x2” strips
Heat 2 Tbsp of oil on medium-high heat in a wok or pan and add the dried chili pepper until fragrant but not brown. Add the garlic and bitter gourd and stir fry for a couple of minutes until no longer raw. Add the ham, tofu and green onions (reserving some for garnish) and continue stir frying for a further 3-4 minutes or until they are cooked through. Throw in a generous pinch of sea salt (about 1/2 tsp) just before it’s done. Be careful not to salt too much if the ham you are using is particularly salty.
Add the eggs and bean sprouts and quickly toss it all together for another minute. Take the pan off the heat immediately and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with a couple hearty pinches of katsuobushi if desired and the leftover green onions. Admittedly the photo shows more than just a couple of pinches of katsuobushi because I do love it so!
Serve with some steamed Japanese short grain rice. I love adding a few slices of fresh raw cucumber or tomato to the side. Also consider a small dollop of Japanese Mayonnaise as an accompaniment. You can mix it in or add it in small amounts to your bites. It sounds weird but you’ll thank me for it later, everyone always does 🙂 Chris loves to add a bit of Nuoc Cham or Sriracha on top. I don’t think it needs it but if you are partial to spicy-goodness, by all means!