Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lasang Pinoy 18: Ampalaya with Egg

Another round of Lasang Pinoy is upon me and this time it’s all about vegetables. Lasang Pinoy, literally translated as Filipino Taste, is a food blogging event that celebrates all aspects of Filipino food (and the various permutations thereof…and believe you me, there are many).

This month’s host, Toni of Wifely Steps, has aptly named this round “Oh my gulay!” Gulay means vegetable, and “Oh my gulay!” is, as Toni put it, a Filipino “expression commonly used to present a feeling of shock, frustration, excitement, or surprise”. That’s right, just like “Oh my god!” or “Oh my gosh!” or “Oh my goodness!” I have no idea how the phrase originated, not that I haven’t used it, but I think we basically just took the “g” from god/gosh/goodness and turned it in to gulay. Strange? I think not! See here. Slang is part of culture and a fun part at that. Especially if it involves veggies…which are always nice.

Ok, not always. I love veggies, but there are a few that insist on scaring me off. So, although there are loads of veggie dishes I would like to make for this event, I decided to make one that I don’t (like, that is). The mighty ampalaya (bitter melon). I have tried more than once to like this vegetable…but it’s just too bitter for me. I was discussing a certain Jeffrey Steingarten train of thought with a good friend and I thought, “This can’t go on!”. It irks me to think of this brilliant green, wrinkly veg, sitting high and mighty on its throne, looking down at me and laughing, “You can’t eat me!”. Really? We’ll just have to see about that.

Ampalaya also happens to be one of C’s favorites! He was forced to eat it as a kid, and eventually grew to love it. Amazing huh? We never have it at home though because I don’t eat it, and I have this weird handicap of not being able to cook anything I don’t like. But the buck stops here.

I chose this preparation because it’s a typically Pinoy way of having ampalaya, it’s easy, and C likes it this way best (we may as well favor the one that actually likes ampalaya right?). I had no idea what I was doing. I sort of pieced together this dish from snippets and tips taken from other blogs, my mom’s cook, and C’s persistent yet anxious directives.

Ampalaya With Egg
  • 150-200 grams worth of ampalaya (bitter melon)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons rock salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, seeds removed and chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper

- Slice the ampalaya in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and white innards. Slice each half widthwise into thin half moons.
- In a colander, rub the slices with rock salt. Rub them well! This part is fun…both you and the ampalaya get a salt scrub. When done, rinse ampalaya slices with water and let drain.
- Now, grab a handful of the drained ampalaya slices and SQUEEZE like your life depends on it. - Once you’ve squeezed the liquid out, set ampalaya slices on a paper towel and repeat with the next fistful until you are done with all the ampalaya.
- Heat the oil in a kawali (wok). Add the garlic, onions, and tomato all at once, and sautee until onions are soft and translucent.
- Toss in the ampalaya and stir fry until ampalaya is cooked through and tender.
- Take the pan off the heat and stir in the eggs. If, after some stirring, it’s still too runny for your taste, place pan back on the hob and continue stirring until eggs are set to your liking.
- Season with salt and pepper, then transfer immediately to a plate (or else the heat from the pan will continue to cook the eggs).
- Serves 2

I was nervous every step of the way. Not because the dish posed much difficulty, but because I could smell the ampalaya the whole time. Even if in all likelihood this was purely in my mind, the smell (which isn’t even that strong mind you) seemed to carry with it a bitter (no pun intended) taunt that I would not be able to do it. But I was patient and gentle (except for the squeezing part), and when the eggs softly set to my liking, I sprinkled some salt on it and took my first bite.

I’m cured!

Something I had done had mellowed all but a hint of the bitterness (the salt scrub? the squeezing?). The garlic, onions, and tomato added their own distinct flavors, making the dish as a whole taste less of ampalaya and more a happy combination of all the ingredients. And the egg enveloped everything in its creamy softness. I actually kinda liked it! As I greedily shoveled spoonfuls of that something-once-disliked into my mouth, the epiphany of it was amazing. A very “oh my gulay!” moment…

As for C, he was very happy that ampalaya is finally part of our menu. The eggs were a tad to wet for his taste (but that's how I like them! no matter, it's a snap to make separate batches...), but when I asked what else I could change he simply said: "Make more!"

In the end, neither I nor the mighty ampalaya were conquered. But I think we just may become friends :)



Mae said...

Oh, my gulay!!! You've done it!!!
You finally like ampalaya and you've done a great job with it too as i can see on the photo.

I am so craving for some of this right now. :)

valentinA said...

Oh geeeez, this looks soooo good Joey!
Love the bright colours!
I think we've got the bitter melon here as well, think it's called 'Margoz'- as in Mar-go-oz.
But I'm like C when he was a kid, I dun like its bitter taste.;)

katrina said...

I've been trying to like ampalaya for far, no luck. I didn't grow up eating it, because neither of my parents liked it either. Recently, I was excited to learn that my dad had tasted an ampalaya dish he loved in a Chinese restaurant. He said it wasn't bitter at all...and when I first tasted it, it seemed okay. But after a few seconds, I tasted the bitterness and had to give up once again. :-( So now I'm jealous of you, Joey, for conquering this aversion! It is NOT an easy vegetable to like!

By the way, I believe the "Oh, my gulay" expression is a pun that came from "Oh, my golly!" Apart from the many similar letters, I can imagine someone mispronouncing "golly" and then realizing the connection to "gulay."

christine said...

Ok, now that looks like something I could eat! For starters, it's got more egg than ampalaya. A good idea for ampalaya virgins like us! :) Now tell me, what are those cute polka dots on the first picture? I'm intrigued!

the philosphical bastard said...

ito ang dakilang paboritong iluto ng aking nanay. good old home made pinoy cooking..

Socky said...

I grew up having Ampalaya with eggs for breakfast. That's why it's comfort food for me. Yours looks exactly the way my mom cooked it. Runny, that's also how I like the eggs with my ampalaya. My mom has another ampalaya dish: ampalaya con carne (ground beef).

Anh said...

That bittergourd still scares me some how. I have started to enjoy it, but it's still far from my favourite. Yours look delicious. My flatmate loves this dish (she can have the whole plate :D)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mae! I did!!! I did!!! :) And your beautiful photos of this dish played a part in encouraging me! :)

Hi Valentina! Thanks! Over here, we also refer to this as amorgoso, so very close to 'margoz' :) I couldn't eat it until this dish!

Hi Katrina! No, it's not an easy vegetable to like...This was the ever first time I ever ate it without disliking it! The ampalaya is not totally the end you still taste some of its "ampalaya-ness" but I was really able to eat a whole serving...and actually enjoy it :) Thanks for the 'oh my gulay!' tip :)

Hi Nens! Yes, for an ampalaya newbie, it's good to err on the side of the egg...and slice them as thin as you can manage :) Those 'polka dots' are the holes of the colander where the ampalaya slices are in :)

Hi PB! I'm glad I can now enjoy this bit of Pinoy home cooking! :)

Wow Socky! That is a big compliment for me! :) I'm glad it turned out well :) I like my eggs runny too...whether in this dish or in others :) Now, I'm encouraged to try other dishes with ampalaya!

Hi Anh! Like you, this is just the beginning of my enjoying it :) Also, it's still far from my favorite...but I'm now getting braver about using it :) This dish I liked...and I'm thinking of maybe doing some pickled ones (another way to 'tame' the taste ;) )

evinrude said...

I love ampalayas! Thing is I quite like it bitter, though not too much of it. I'm glad you've joined us in the ampalaya-liking family! Hehe

And both the salt rub and the squeezing help in getting rid of the bitterness. =)

Ipshi said...

Hey Jo! I hate bitter gourd too! Here in India, they're called Karela. My mom has always been forcing me to eat them and iv been the obedient little girl. The problem is that she doesnt subscribe to the removing of it's innards and squeezing.
She says that takes away the bitter gourd's nutritive value! :(

veron said...

Ampalaya was my #1 enemy growing up...but it is so good for you ...and your skin. Maybe if I follow your recipe I will be cured too, since it looks so good!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Evinrude! Thanks for the feedback on the salt rub and squeezing :) Well, it's supposed to be bitter...but 'squeezing' much of the bitterness out is a good way to initiate newbies like me! ;)

Hi Ipshi! Oh no! Don't tell my husband I've squeezed out the vitamins! I don't think I can go back to full force bitter melon...heeheehee :)

Hi Veron! It's good for my skin? Really? get's even better! :) This is the perfect dish for an ampalaya-phobe :)

Marvin said...

Hi Jo. Although I took part in Lasang Pinoy for the first time, I actually stumbled across your blog from your comment on Clotilde's blog. Funny, that.

Anyways, since I grew up in California, it took many years for me to be able to enjoy ampalaya. Pinakbet is my favorite dish, and I used to pick the ampalaya from my plate and eat everything else in the Pinakbet. But now I actually enjoy the flavor of bitter melon.

veron said...

I've tagged you by the way...
Thinking blogger

ces said...

another dish that i have learned to love only recently..well not that recent...prolly during my teens and i have to confess, i haven't had the guts to cook this myself as of yet...your photos are great joey! and great entry!

Nupur said...

LOL...I *loved* learning the meaning of this quirky expression :) In India, bitter melons are either loved or hated, but prepared in a hundred different ways. But none with thanks for this creative recipe!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Marvin! I have lived in the Philippines all my life (except for brief stint working in Europe) and I have never been able to eat ampalaya until this dish! Bravo to you for learning to appreciate it all the way in California! :) Now I have to learn to make pinakbet...

Hi Veron! I'm thrilled, thank you! :) (((blush)))

Hi Ces! Thank you! :) It was more of the challenge of it (cooking something I don't like), and wanting to make it from my husband who loves it :) And LP18 provided the perfect opportunity!

Hi Nupur! We have a lot of those quirky expressions! :) Bitter melon also has both legions of fans and lots of detractors here as well...This egg preparation is very typical here and, they say, is the best way to "indroduce" the veg to the uninitiated :)

kaoko said...

I love LP18! It might actually cure my ampalaya-fear. I love what you did with the ampalaya, it looks especially yummy.

(I can't believe I'm saying this about ampalaya!)

iska said...

My gulay Joey! Your ampalaya with egg looks absolutely divine, who wouldn't like it?

Be@rbrick Lover: said...

All I can say is that is the most beautiful pic of raw ampalaya I've ever seen! :-D

ChichaJo said...

Hi Kaoko! Thanks! I couldn't believe I was eating it :)

Hi Iska! Thanks a lot :)

Hi be@rbrick lover! That's a big compliment from an expert like you :)

stef said...

Joey, LOL! I've been bloghopping through all the different entries, and been commenting on one that hers is the 3rd entry, then I found a 4th, and now a 5th, on ampalaya! I'm loving all the posts on it! Being a late ampalaya lover myself, this is now one of my favorites (it also brings me back home to my Papa, as it's one of his favorites too).

ChichaJo said...

Hi Stef! I guess anyway you look at it, love it or hate it, ampalaya sure has blazed itself on the consciousness of Filipinos everywhere! :) Iba talaga ang dating!

mikemina said...

ampalaya with egg will always be one of my favorite takes on this veggie. great entry, joey!

ChichaJo said...

Hi Mike! Thanks! :) I think with egg is the "easiest" way to eat ampalaya ;)

Anonymous said...

To remove bitterness, scrape as much of the white inside lining as possible. I think this is where the bitterness come from. And I've always been told not to stir the ampalaya when cooking as this will release the bitterness. Another great recipe is to saute with garlic, onion, tomatoes, shrimp and a little pork. Pour in a little water, then pour in the ampalaya and some sotanghon. Let cook and DON'T EVER STIR!!! As for me, I don't use fresh shrimp and pork anymore. I just use the shrimp bouillon which is just as tasty.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anon! Thanks for all the tips! It is greatly appreciated :)

annmariemarie said...

Ganon pala magtanggal ng pakla sa ampalaya! Thanks for this easy-to-understand post. Will do this tonight.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Annmarie! Yes...I was so excited when I made it because I never used to eat ampalaya before, now I can! :)

annmariemarie said...

Ang galing! It was not bitter but it still tasted like ampalaya. Thanks so much! Now I can confidently cook ampalaya =)

ChichaJo said...

Hi Annmarie! I'm so glad you liked it! And I felt exactly the same way when I made this :)

Anonymous said...

It's the salt scrub, you use salt to get rid of the bitterness. This technique is also used on labanos if you are familiar with this :) I learned this trick from my mom.

ChichaJo said...

Hi Anon! I learned it from my mum-in-law...and it really works! I use it to this day :)

Anonymous said...

I love ampalaya too! In fact, I just became a fan of it in Facebook!