Bittermelon Salad (Ensaladang Ampalaya)


I should start by warning you that this salad is not your everyday salad.  IT IS BITTER.  You probably would have  figured that one out seeing that the main ingredient is BITTERMELON.  In my experience, no matter what technique you use to remove as much of the bitterness of this vegetable, there will always be a hint of bitterness left.  Especially in this recipe where the bittermelon is not cooked but eaten raw.  This recipe was originally served at The Westin Philippine Plaza hotel in Manila, concocted byVincent Yap.


  • 2 cups seeded and sliced (julienned) bittermelon
  • 5 shallots, sliced
  • 3 tbs shrimp paste (bagoong)
  • 4 plum tomatoes (or any kind of fresh tomaotes), sliced
  • salt


  1. Sprinkle the bittermelon with salt and let stand in a strainer or colander for at least 30 minutes.  (You can even do this overnight if you are overly terrified of the bitterness! :) )  Rinse off the salt.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combime bittermelon with the remaining ingredients.  Let stand for 10 minutes so the flavors develops.
  3. Serve with any grilled dish.

Bittermelon can also be cooked/sauteed with pork, shrimp or eggs.  That is actually the most common way of preparing this vegetable.  Kusina ni Manang has an excellent recipe on  how to do it– exactly how I remember my grandmother cooked it.


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» Teanna said: { Mar 23, 2009 - 10:03 }

Wow! I have never even heard of bitter melon! That salad is so beautiful! The colors are just lovely!

» Hubby's Cook said: { Mar 23, 2009 - 08:03 }

hmmm…bittermelon din pala ang ampalaya. akala ko bittergourd. anyway, mukhang masarap sya. :-)

» Elyse said: { Mar 24, 2009 - 01:03 }

I’ve never tried bittermelon, but your picture makes me want to! I can deal with a bit of bitterness, especially with a salad as yummy looking as this one!

» Jaja said: { Mar 25, 2009 - 01:03 }

I prefer the ampalaya cooked with eggs and a few bits of pork or shrimp. =)

» tigerfish said: { Mar 25, 2009 - 02:03 }

I like bittermelon stir-fried with eggs and in egg-drop soup :)

» virtual chef said: { Mar 25, 2009 - 08:03 }

wow! that is my favorite, too!

» fitri said: { Mar 25, 2009 - 04:03 }

i love bittermelon, and I always put many bird chillies and shrimp..

» Manang said: { Mar 26, 2009 - 09:03 }

Thanks for the special mention!
As a kid I used to hate bittermelon. I developed the taste for it when I was already in my 20s. Now I even crave for it that everytime I go to the Asian stores I have to get at least two. If only I could find a good way to preserve it, that would be superb!
I have not eaten this kind of bittermelon salad, but it sounds delish once it has been stripped of some bitterness…I love the crunch of almost-uncooked ampalaya.

» Tangled Noodle said: { Mar 26, 2009 - 09:03 }

I enjoy the slight bitterness left over in ampalaya dishes. My problem is that I can not get enough of it out! The first and last time I made bittermelon, I nearly killed us! Maybe it’s time to try again. 8-)

» virtual chef said: { Mar 26, 2009 - 10:03 }

fitri: that sounds like a really spicy version. i have to try that maybe my husband will eat some.

Manang: i grew up eating ampalaya like a salad. my grandmother probably has the magic touch, preparing it so it is not so bitter and not so bland. i do love the crunch, too and if you find a way to preserve it, i’m visiting your site immediately! :)

TN: I can’t get all the bitterness out either. I tried the “salt and set aside” method, to the point that i even leave it overnight to drain. then i squeeze and do it all over again. i would even blanch it with hot water. but there will always be a little bitterness left. the only thing i remember was my lola telling me to choose bittermelon that has grooves that are wide apart, so the ampalaya looks almost smooth and not so wrinkled (for lack of a better description!) for some reason, those are not as bitter as the others.

» Loreta said: { Jun 11, 2010 - 08:06 }

Got to this site while looking for bittergourd recipes. The other way to serve it as a salad is to add vinegar, a little sugar and a pinch of crushed white/black pepper. The sourness of the vinegar and a bit of sweetness from the sugar balances the bitterness. You cannot totally eliminate the bitter taste but this recipe will blend all the tastes quite wonderfully. You can also add some chopped shallots and tomatoes if you do not want it plain.

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