Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day 321

Ginataang Ampalaya (Bitter Melon in Coconut Cream): After eating way too much good restaurant food over the past few days while my friend has been visiting, I knew I wasn't going to be in the mood to eat today, much less do a blog entry. However, the show must go on, so I looked through my stash of packaged foods for something new and palatable.

I opted for something I found at the Great Wall Supermarket in Duluth a couple weekends ago, and I'd been curious about it ever since I discovered it. I'd seen bitter melon in a few different stores before, but didn't buy since I had no idea how to prepare it. I knew it was popular in many Asian and Indian dishes, and this canned version from the Philippines sounded tasty. The dish was apparently called "ginataang ampalaya," and combined bitter melon with coconut cream and some spices (onion, salt, chili powder, garlic). It also contained something called "salted shrimp fry," which was a new one for me.
I opened the can and heated a small portion, and I was surprised with the results. It almost reminded me of a much saltier clam chowder at first, with a somewhat fishy taste that I assume was supplied by the "shrimp fry." I expected the coconut cream to provide a sweet, curry-like flavor, but it was much more subtle. As far as the bitter melon goes, it didn't taste like much. It was minced into much smaller pieces than the label portrayed, and aside from a faintly bitter, fruity taste, it didn't add much to the dish. Not bad, but I wouldn't seek it out again.
In case you were wondering, salted shrimp fry is actually a shrimp paste that's popular in the Philippines. It's apparently used as a seasoning agent and can be bought fairly easily in Asian groceries.

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