Canh Khổ Qua – Bitter Melon Soup


I’m through spewing angst on the floor and keyboard for now. With the intent to bring levity here, I’m sharing my mom’s recipe for Canh Khổ Qua – Bitter Melon Soup. As the name suggests, this soup has a very bitter, strong taste. Eating this was something my sisters and I scoffed at when we were younger but now, as adults, we can appreciate it’s interesting flavor as well as its purported health benefits. My mom insists that it is mát, something that cools or settles your stomach.

In my home, we tend not to make another meat dish to go along with this as there is plenty enough meat in the stuffing. We enjoy it with a steamy bowl of rice.

INGREDIENTS: (4 servings as part of a meal)

  • 3 pieces of black (wood ear) mushroom, re-hydrated in warm water, and finely chopped
  • (edit): 1/2 lb. 2/3 lb. ground pork
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2 med/large bitter melon, cut into 1 1/2 – 2 inch segments, removing spongy center and seeds
  • 1 quart quality chicken stock
  • 1 Tbl. fish sauce
  • 1 small rock sugar cube or 1 tsp. raw sugar


  • Thoroughly combine the first 7 ingredients (black mushroom, pork, shallot, garlic, egg, S+P) in a bowl.
  • Equally divide and stuff the mixture among the bitter melon segments.
  • Bring chicken stock to a rolling boil and add the stuffed bitter melon.
  • Add the fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  • Then, turn down the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • At this point, the stuffing should be cooked through, the bitter melon should be tender and its color has changed from jade green to olive green.
  • Taste the soup and add more fish sauce if necessary. Serve with steamed rice.

Bon appétit!