Spare Ribs with Bitter Melon

This is one of those dishes that we order and eat from our favorite restaurant every time we visit Chinatown here in Los Angeles. The flavor of the ribs and the mild saltiness of black bean sauce counter the bitterness of the melon. By the way, there are several techniques that you can use to lessen the bitterness of bitter melon or bitter gourd. The one that I always use is by soaking the melon for a few minutes in lukewarm water with salt then wringing and rinsing it several times.

Okay, let’s talk about ribs. There is a difference between baby back ribs and spare ribs. Baby back ribs are taken from the back of the pig near the spine, and it is tenderer. Spare ribs however, is from the belly part of the pig and has more meat, and fat and not as tender as baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are usually more expensive than spare ribs.

I like using spare ribs because it’s more flavorful due to the fat contents and I save money but the cooking time is a bit longer, which I don’t mind. The choice is up to you, so let’s EAT!

2 medium Bitter melon
2 lbs Spare Ribs or Baby back Ribs – chopped to 1 inch cubes
1 small onion – chopped to 1 inch squares
4 Green Onions – sliced thinly (white parts separated from the green parts)
2 Tablespoon Black bean sauce with garlic
1 Tablespoon Garlic – finely minced
4 round slices of Ginger – cut to match sticks
3 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil

Sauce Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 1/2 Tablespoon Dry Sherry or Chinese Rice Wine
2 1/2 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoon Oyster Sauce
2 teaspoon Sugar
2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 teaspoon Water
1 teaspoon Cornstarch

Cut bitter melon in half – lengthwise.
Remove the seeds by scraping them with a spoon.
Slice bitter melon to 1/2 inch thick.
In a bowl, place sliced bitter melon in 3 cups of lukewarm water, add 2 tablespoon salt then set aside for about 20 minutes. **This process with lessen the bitterness of the bitter melon.**

After 20 minutes, transfer bitter melon in a colander to drain.
Place colander under a running water.
Wring the sliced melons several times to get rid of the salt.
After the last wring, set bitter melon aside in a bowl.

In a bowl, combine chicken broth, wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and oyster sauce. Mix then set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine 2 tablespoon water with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Mix then set aside.

Place wok over medium-high heat then add 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
When the oil is hot, stir fry the ribs until golden brown.
** Depending on the heat of your stove, you may have to do this process in several batches **
Set aside fried ribs in a plate.

On the same wok, add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
Add ginger, white parts of the green onions, and garlic.
Stir fry for about 20 seconds or until aromatic.
Add the spare ribs back to the wok then stir in the black bean sauce.
Stir fry until ribs are fully combined with the sauce.
Add the chicken broth, stir, and let it boil.
Once it’s boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and then cover.
Let it simmer for about 15 to 25 minutes or until ribs are tender.

Stir in the bitter melon, and chopped onions.
Let it cook for about 1 minute.
Stir in the water-cornstarch mixture then let it boil until the sauce thickens.
Garnish with chopped green onions.

Serve hot with steamed rice.

Note** Spare ribs recipe was adapted from food writer of Chinese Cuisine of – Rhonda Parkinson.

Your comment is always appreciated.



  1. Lauren Identicon Lauren says

    This is also my husband’s favorite chinatown dish. He likes it so much that I will cook this for him.

  2. Jared Identicon Jared says

    I have had beef and bittermelon before but never with ribs. This is something to try. Looks delicious!

  3. says

    Hi Ray! Thanks for stopping by my blog, I really appreciated it and your kind words! :-) So happy to “meet” you! :-)
    I have never eaten this dish, but it looks incredibly delicious and I love the combination of flavors in it! :-)

  4. says

    Okay I’m totally drooling here. I LOVE spare ribs in black bean sauce…and it’s over rice! Now my big appetite is asking for this food!!! Ray, beautiful pictures as always and I like the ingredients all line up. Very creative shot! Gosh I’m hungry and I just ate my big breakfast! =P I love this recipe and bookmarked!

  5. says

    I’m a big fan of bitter melon AND salted black beans…never had them with spare ribs though. This dish looks and sounds heavenly. I’ll have to try it real soon.

    Beautiful photos as always.:)

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