- 1 dried wood ear mushroom (see Note)
- 2 tbsp broken cellophane (bean thread) noodles
- 125 g minced pork
- 2 tsp grated palm sugar
- 140 ml fish sauce (nuoc cham), plus extra, to serve
- 4 spring onions, 2 whole, 2 white part only, finely chopped
- 2 bitter melons
- 250 g pork bones or ribs
- 2 coriander roots
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the stuffing, soak the mushroom and noodles in separate bowls of hot water for 20 minutes or until softened.
Meanwhile, knead mince in a bowl with ½ tsp salt until smooth. Working in 2 batches, gather a ball of mince and throw it back into the bowl, repeating for 2 minutes to tenderise pork.
Drain the mushroom and noodles. Thinly slice mushroom, discarding its tough centre, and add to minced pork with noodles, palm sugar, 3 tsp fish sauce and the chopped spring onions. Mix well to combine.
Cut the bitter melons in half widthwise, and, using a small spoon, scoop out and discard
the seeds. Tightly pack bitter melons with the pork stuffing, then secure the bitter melon halves back together with bamboo skewers.
Place pork bones, coriander roots, remaining 125 ml fish sauce and 2 whole spring onions in a large saucepan with 2 litres water. Bring to the boil, add bitter melons and place a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 45 minutes or until tender.
Trim and discard ends from each bitter melon. Remove skewers and cut each half into 4 slices. Place in a shallow bowl. Spoon over enough pork broth to cover. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool and allow flavours to develop. Transfer slices to a plate and serve with extra fish sauce.
• Available from Asian food shops.
As seen in Feast Magazine, Issue 13, pg134.
Photography by Jason Loucas.