Prep Time: 15 Mins
If Gaia did not want us to stuff bittergourd, would she have made it such a perfect shape for stuffing? Would she have given it such a perfect bittersweet flavour that could only compliment a savoury stuffing and sauce? Would she have given it such a firm dense structure that stands up to braising and steaming so well? These are questions that I cannot answer, but I can definitely tell you that stuffed bittergourd is flipping delicious and totally worth the effort.
If you prefer, you can use a different vegan protein such as OmniMeat in this recipe. For example, I used OmniMeat for stuffing in this Stuffed Long Beans (素酿豆角) recipe.
In Singapore, stuffed bittergourd is normally eaten as part of Hakka yong tau foo, but it is also a nice side dish for a Chinese meal. Get into it!
Slice the bittergourd into 1 cm thick rings and clean out the seeds. If your tofu is watery, make sure you press your tofu until most of the water content has been released, then drain. Mush up the tofu, finely chop the mushrooms, chives and chilli.
If you are afraid of the bitterness of the bittergourd, you can use a teaspoon to further scrape the white lining or pith from the middle. Similar to the pith in oranges, this white lining can have a more bitter taste.
Mix the mushed up tofu, mushroom, chives and chilli together with 1 tbsp of vegan oyster sauce, 0.5 tbsp of soy sauce, 0.5 tsp of white pepper and 1 tsp of corn starch.
Dust the inner ring of the bittergourd with corn starch so the stuffing sticks better.
Place the bittergourd on your fingers and use your thumb to press the stuffing tightly into the hole. Make sure you turn it around and do the same on the other side. It is fine and good if the stuffing sticks out a little bit.
When you've gone and stuffed all the bittergourd pieces, dust the top of them with corn starch.
Heat up 1 tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Place the stuffed bittergourd pieces in with the corn starch side facing down into the oil. Leave them to brown. Meanwhile, dust the top with more corn starch.
After about 3 minutes, flip the stuffed bittergourd and leave to brown. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce in a bowl by mixing 1 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine, 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of vegan oyster sauce, 1 tsp of sesame oil and 3 tbsp of water.
After about another 3 minutes, add the sauce into the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and put the lid on.
Cook the sauce down to your preferred consistency and serve.
This recipe will be enough to stuff a whole bittergourd. I only made six pieces because my pan is small.
If you like it very saucy, you can double the amount of water water and 1 tsp of corn starch to the sauce.