Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh khổ qua dồn thịt)

I have to admit that I used to be afraid of stuffed bitter melon soup (canh khổ qua dồn thịt/ canh khổ qua nhồi thịt) when I was a child. Not only because the bitter melon is…bitter, but also because my mom made it at every family gathering, especially during Lunar New Year. However, today I have become my mom: I must have a bowl of stuffed bitter melon soup on the first day of our Tet. I’m going to share my simple recipe for this dish right below.

vietnamese bitter melon soup, canh khổ qua dồn thịt

Bitter Melon – What Is It?

Although the word “melon” appears in its name, bitter melon can’t be eaten raw like watermelon, honeydew melon, or cantaloupe, simply because it’s very bitter. This fruit has a unique warty look, with crunchy and juicy flesh covering the inedible seeds inside. It’s a popular ingredient in cooking in several Asian and African countries like Vietnam, China, India, Nepal, or Bangladesh. Therefore, you can easily find it in Chinese, Vietnamese, or Indian grocery stores.

Bitter Melon in Vietnamese Cuisine

In Vietnam, we have several recipes using bitter melon. From stuffed bitter melon soup, which I’m going to introduce in this post, to bitter melon stir fry with egg, and bitter melon salad with pork floss, this special fruit indeed contributes to the uniqueness of Vietnamese cuisine. Let me give you a brief about these dishes. Bitter melon stir-fried with egg (khổ qua xào trứng) is a daily dish that is served with cooked rice. Bitter melon salad (khổ qua chà bông) is the most interesting dish in my opinion because, after some processing steps, we can enjoy this fruit fresh with pork floss.

The most common dish, stuffed bitter melon soup, consists of a mixture of ground pork and wood ear mushrooms stuffed inside bitter melon, then boiled. It is usually served at special events like Tet (Lunar New Year) and death anniversaries (giỗ). People believe that the soup can bring luck, as the word “bitter melon” in Vietnamese, “khổ qua”, is a homophone with the phrase meaning “difficulty is over”.

preparing ingredients to make stuffed bitter melon soup
The ingredients for bitter melon soup. My big bitter melon is bought from an Indian grocery store.

Let’s start making the soup from bitter melon following my ingredients and instruction below.

Ingredients

For a pot of stuffed bitter melon soup, serving 4 people, you will need:

  • 20g (about 1/2 cup) dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp of sliced shallots (optional)
  • 250g (8.8 oz) ground pork
  • 500g (17.6 oz) bitter melon
  • 750 ml (3 cups) water
  • Condiments: salt, seasoning powder, etc.
  • Garnish: chopped spring onion & coriander.
vietnamese bitter melon soup, canh khổ qua nhồi thịt

Instructions

1. Preparation

  • Gather all the required ingredients. Wash the bitter melon, soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in water for 15 minutes, and season the ground pork with a bit of salt, diced shallots, and pepper.
asian mushroom types wood ear mushroom
  • For the bitter melon: cut it into 2-3 cm (about 1-1.5 inch) pieces. If using small bitter melons, keep them whole but make a lengthwise cut from one end to another. Use a small spoon or your thumb to scoop out the seeds and core. Wash them again.
Cut and remove the core of a bitter melon before cooking

2. Stuffing the Bitter Melon

  • Mix the filling: after 15 minutes, the wood ear mushrooms should be soft. Chop them finely and mix thoroughly with the ground pork.
the fillings in vietnamese stuffed bitter melon soup, with ground pork and wood ear mushroom.
  • Stuff each piece of bitter melon with the filling using a spoon. Be careful not to overfill, as the filling will expand during cooking.
stuff bitter melon with ground pork fillings using a spoon

3. Cooking the Soup

  • If you have pre-made pork bone broth, use it for a richer flavor; otherwise, plain water is fine.
  • Bring a pot of water or pork bone broth to a boil. Once boiling, add the stuffed bitter melon and simmer for at least 30 minutes on medium heat. For softer bitter melon, continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes.
cooking stuffed bitter melon soup (nấu canh khổ qua dồn thịt)
  • Adjust the taste with salt, seasoning powder and so on. Garnish the soup with chopped spring onions and coriander before serving.
vietnamese stuffed bitter melon, canh khổ qua dồn thịt

Storage

As the soup is usually served at special events like Lunar New Year, it often needs to be stored for several days. I learned a tip from my mom: leave the soup at room temperature with the lid open until it completely cools down. Then, transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in the fridge for no more than 4 days. 

Every time you want to enjoy it, take a sufficient portion out of the fridge and reheat it on the stove, or microwave it for a few minutes. Don’t forget to stir for even heating.

Enjoy your “canh khổ qua”!

vietnamese stuffed bitter melon, canh khổ qua dồn thịt

Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh khổ qua dồn thịt)

Stuffed bitter melon soup consists of a mixture of ground pork and wood ear mushrooms stuffed inside bitter melon, then boiled.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: canh khổ qua dồn thịt, vietnamese stuffed bitter melon soup
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 650kcal
Author: Mia Pham

Ingredients

  • 20g (~1/2 cup) dried wood ear mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp of sliced shallots optional
  • 250g (8.8 oz) ground pork
  • 500g (17.6 oz) bitter melon
  • 750 ml (3 cups) water
  • Condiments: salt, seasoning powder, etc.
  • Garnish: chopped spring onion & coriander.

Instructions

1. Preparation

  • Gather all the required ingredients. Wash the bitter melon, soak the dried wood ear mushrooms in water for 15 minutes, and season the ground pork with a bit of salt, diced shallots, and pepper.
    preparing ingredients to make stuffed bitter melon soup
  • For the bitter melon: cut it into 2-3 cm (about 1-1.5 inch) pieces. If using small bitter melons, keep them whole but make a lengthwise cut from one end to another. Use a small spoon or your thumb to scoop out the seeds and core. Wash them again.
    Cut and remove the core of a bitter melon before cooking

2. Stuffing the Bitter Melon

  • Mix the filling: after 15 minutes, the wood ear mushrooms should be soft. Chop them finely and mix thoroughly with the ground pork.
    the fillings in vietnamese stuffed bitter melon soup, with ground pork and wood ear mushroom.
  • Stuff each piece of bitter melon with the filling using a spoon. Be careful not to overfill, as the filling will expand during cooking.
    stuff bitter melon with ground pork fillings using a spoon
  • Now your stuffed bitter melon pieces are ready to cook.
    stuffed bitter melon pieces before cooking

3. Cooking the Soup

  • If you have pre-made pork bone broth, use it for a richer flavor; otherwise, plain water is fine.
    cooking stuffed bitter melon soup (nấu canh khổ qua dồn thịt)
  • Bring a pot of water or pork bone broth to a boil. Once boiling, add the stuffed bitter melon and simmer for at least 30 minutes on medium heat. For softer bitter melon, continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes.
  • Adjust the taste with salt, seasoning powder and so on. Garnish the soup with chopped spring onions and coriander before serving.
    vietnamese stuffed bitter melon, canh khổ qua dồn thịt

Nutrition

Serving: 200g | Calories: 650kcal

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