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Make the Best of Bitter Melons: Goya Champuru

Summer is coming, and so are Goya! Goya, also known as nigauri or bitter melon, is a deep green, rough skinned gourd known for it’s bitter taste. Goya are in season from July through September and as a result are a popular component in many Japanese summer dishes. Bitter taste aside, goya are extremely healthy, containing high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants that do not diminish significantly when cooked. To choose a bitter melon, buy them while they are in season and pick one that is smaller in size, dark green, very bumpy and firm to the touch.

Goya champuru is an Okinawan dish made using stir-fried tofu, goya, egg, and pork belly (or SPAM if that’s your preference). Goya champuru gained popularity on the Japanese mainland largely due to the influence of a television drama “Churasan”, which aired in 2001. Set in Okinawa, the TV show inspired mainlanders to visit Okinawa on an unprecedented scale. As a result restaurants serving Okinawan food began popping up all over in response to the new trend. This dish in particular found its way into the repertoire of Japanese housewives due to its relative simplicity and heartiness. Use the following recipe to make your own Goya Champuru at home!

Goya Champuru

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Total: 40 minutes


1 bitter melon

Sea salt/ kosher salt

14 oz medium firm tofu, drained and patted dry, and broken by hand into bite sized chunks

6 pieces sliced pork belly, cut into 1-1 ½ inch wide pieces

2 large eggs, beaten

Neutral flavored oil (vegetable or canola oils are both fine)

1 tbsp soy sauce

¼ cup dashi

Bonito flakes for topping


To prepare the bitter melon:

  • First cut the melon in half lengthwise.

  • Then, use a spoon to scoop out the pith and seeds.

  • Cut the melon into ⅛ inch wide slices.

  • Sprinkle 1 tsp salt onto the melon and mix well. Let stand for 10 minutes to reduce bitterness.

  • Rinse and dry thoroughly.

To prepare dashi:

  • Add one tsp concentrated Kappo Shirodashi to a glass measuring cup.

  • Fill the cup the rest of the way to the ¼ cup mark with warm water.

After dashi and bitter melon have been prepared for cooking:

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.

  • Add tofu, and without touching it too much, cook until it is slightly browned and the moisture has evaporated.

  • Transfer the tofu to a plate and set aside.

  • Add 1 tsbp oil to the same pan, and this time add the sliced bitter melon.

  • Stir fry until almost fully cooked (it will be bright green and still slightly firm)

  • Transfer the bitter melon to a plate and set aside.

  • Add ½ tbsp oil and pork belly pieces to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the pork belly is golden brown.

  • Return both the bitter melon and tofu to the frying pan.

  • Add dashi and soy sauce, stir frying until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

  • Pour the beaten eggs over the mixture and continue to stir fry until the eggs are no longer runny.

  • Top with bonito flakes, and enjoy!



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