This Braised Chicken and Bitter Gourd in Spicy Black Bean Sauce is a classic with a twist. Red chilies make the sauce even more flavorful.
Braised Chicken and Bitter Gourd is a classic Chinese dish made even more delicious in a spicy black bean sauce. In Malaysia, we love spicy foods and adding some chilies to any dish is a no brainer. I actually cooked this dish while I was back visiting my Mom in Kuala Lumpur as it is one of her favorite dishes. She recently told me over the phone that she was going to cook it again. 😉
Bitter Gourd/Bitter Melon
When it comes to bitter gourd/melon, you either love it or hate it. I have to be honest. I never liked it as a child. Never heard of any child who liked anything bitter. That said, the taste of bitter gourd grows on you as you continue to eat it and eventually makes you a convert.
There are different varieties of this gourd/melon. Some are definitely more bitter than others. My preference is the lighter green variety with wider ridges running along the gourd. You can further reduce its bitterness by “marinating” it in salt to draw out some of its bitter juices.
Would you believe Paul and I drove 6½ hours to Billings, Montana to buy these two bitter gourds? Well, we drove there last week to get some things done. Since the Southeast Asian market was near where we were at, we decided to drop in. The big win there was finding frozen pandan, banana leaves, and bitter gourd! I have been having trouble germinating the seeds. Managed to save 26 seeds from this one melon. Hopefully, they will germinate. I can’t wait for the 2023 growing season to start.
The Chicken For This Dish
If you are planning to buy a whole chicken for this dish, it is best to cut the chicken into smaller pieces. In Malaysia, I bought a whole chicken chopped into 16 pieces. The vendor can chop the chicken into 8, 12, 16, and even 18 pieces for you with his super sharp cleaver that cuts through the bones as if it were butter. I am not sure how you would do this at home but I am sure some people can. Over here, I am contented to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces. If you prefer, you can also use bone and skin on chicken thighs cut into two. if that is the case, you may need to increase the braising time by 5 to 10 minutes for the bone-in chicken to be tender.
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Braised Chicken and Bitter Gourd in Spicy Black Bean Sauce
- 1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into bite size pieces) (675g)
- 1 medium bitter gourd
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup water (120ml)
- Cut bitter gourd in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and cut each half crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Place bitter gourd slices in a bowl.
- Sprinkle salt onto sliced bitter gourd and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. This is to draw out some of the bitter juices from the gourd. Rinse and drain.
- Pound all spice paste ingredients except sugar in a mortar and pestle into a paste. You can use a blender instead.
- Transfer to a bowl and add the sugar. Set aside.
- Heat vegetable oil in a medium sized clay pot or pan. Stir in spice paste and fry for 3 to 4 minutes until fragrant.
- Add chicken and continue to stir fry for another 3 to 4 minutes until opaque and coated with sauce.
- Pour in water, cover, and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and allow it to simmer on low for 15 minutes.
- Do give it a stir occasionally.
- Finally, add prepared bitter gourd.
- Cover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Do stir occasionally.
- The sauce should thicken. Turn off heat and serve immediately with steamed rice.
Be sure to cook more rice to enjoy this tasty dish with the gravy. If you prefer a less spicy version, please check out my Braised Pork Ribs and Bitter Gourd recipe on my other blog.