Bitter Melon and Pork Stir Fry With Black Bean Sauce

Bitter Melon and Pork Stir Fry With Black Bean Sauce

The Spruce / Connie Veneracion

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 2 to 3 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
406 Calories
18g Fat
40g Carbs
25g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 3
Amount per serving
Calories 406
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 18g 23%
Saturated Fat 4g 21%
Cholesterol 57mg 19%
Sodium 355mg 15%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 14%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Protein 25g
Calcium 145mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Stir-frying thinly sliced bitter melon with meat and fermented black beans is arguably Chinese in origin but versions have sprouted all over Southeast Asia over the millennia. Some bitter melon and meat stir-fries have ground meat, others have thinly sliced meat, a beaten egg is added in some versions, some have chilies while others don't.

In other words, while the basic recipe has remained the same, the variations are so numerous and, in some instances, a version is found in more than one cuisine. That makes it rather difficult to claim that one version is exclusively Vietnamese, for instance, when a very similar one is found in Cambodia.

This recipe sticks to the basic bitter melon and black beans stir fry but integrates the flavors and spices that are more Southeast Asian than Chinese. 

Fermented black beans are available fresh, canned or in pouches (canned and in pouches only outside Asia). Measure the amount you need and drain well before use. The liquid is much too salty and can ruin the cooked dish. 


  • 250 grams pork (thinly sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (plus extra to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bird's eye chilies (chopped)
  • 1 bitter melon
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans (drained)
  • 2 shallots (thinly sliced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 piece ginger (half-inch, minced)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup radish (julienned)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup carrot (julienned)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place the pork slices in a shallow bowl.

  3. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chopped chilies.

  4. Mix well making sure that all the ingredients are distributed evenly.

  5. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate while preparing the bitter melon.

  6. Cut off the tips of the bitter melon and discard.

  7. Halve vertically and scoop out the seeds and pith. Slice the bitter melon into half rings about a quarter of an inch thick. If you want to minimize the bitterness, see the instructions.

  8. Heat the cooking oil in a wok or frying pan until wisps of smoke start to float on the surface. This is stir-frying, the heat has to be extremely high and the oil needs to be very hot before any ingredient is added to it.

  9. Dump the marinated pork into the pan and stir fry until the meat changes color. Add the bitter melon and the fermented black beans. Stir fry for another two minutes.

  10. Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger. Continue cooking, tossing often, for about half a minute.

  11. Add the julienned radish and carrot, if using, and stir fry for another half a minute.

  12. Taste and adjust the seasonings, as needed, before serving.

  13. Serve hot with rice and enjoy!