Oseng-Oseng Pare: Javanese Stir-fried Bitter Gourd

Oseng-oseng pare is Javanese dish of bitter gourd stir-fried with shallots, garlic, chillies, and shrimp paste. It’s typical of Indonesian home cooking and has numerous health benefits.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Oseng-oseng pare is a simple stir-fried dish made of bitter gourd (or pare in Javanese). It is cooked with spices such as chillies, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, etc. Herbs such as galangal and salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves) give it a quintessentially Javanese touch. 

Bitter gourd (also known as bitter melon or bitter squash) is a tropical and subtropical vine, widely grown in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. The fruit originates in Africa and is widely used in the cuisines of East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia. 

Bitter gourd resembles a cucumber and has a rough, bumpy skin. Different varieties produce different sizes and levels of bitterness. A fruit that’s deeper green in color will yield a more bitter taste than a lighter-colored one. Young bitter gourd has white seeds, which turn bright red when the fruit ripens.

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Though it hails from the same family as the cucumber or cantaloupe, bitter gourd has a completely different flavour from the rest of the family. It has a pungent, bitter taste and is not at all sweet. 

Bitter gourd is said to have a lot of health benefits such as helping reduce blood sugar, decreasing cholesterol levels and energizing the body. Instead of cooking it, you can also extract the juice and drink it fresh right away to reap all the benefits.

In Indonesia, bitter gourd is available all year long. It is served as an accompaniment for rice and other dishes. The most common way to prepare is by stir frying it. Raw and boiled pare is sometimes served with sambal, as lalapan (a type of boiled vegetable salad). 

For this recipe, I’ve used the Chinese variety of bitter gourd, as it is less bitter. You can further reduce the bitterness by sweating it with a little bit of salt and then rinsing it under running cold water. 

Oseng-oseng pare is typical of Indonesian home cooking. The dish is intense and spicy with a tangy bitter flavour. It’s an acquired taste as not everyone is familiar with bitter vegetables, but it’s flavourful and delicious. This bitter gourd dish is special and it’s definitely worth trying!

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Oseng-Oseng Pare: Javanese Stir-fried Bitter Gourd

Oseng-Oseng Pare: Javanese Stir-fried Bitter Gourd

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal

Description

Oseng-oseng pare is Javanese dish of bitter gourd stir-fried with shallots, garlic, chillies, and shrimp paste. It’s typical of Indonesian home cooking and has numerous health benefits.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 300 gr bitter gourd
  • 6 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled chopped
  • 3 big red chillies, remove the stalk, chopped
  • 3 bird’s eye chillies (optional, remove the stalk)
  • 0.5 tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • 1 red tomato, chopped
  • 2 cm, galangal, sliced
  • 1 Indonesian bay leaf (daun salam)
  • Salt to taste
  • 0.5 tsp sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil

Instructions

  1. Remove both ends of the bitter gourd, cut in half, and remove the seeds.
  2. Thinly slice it, then put it in a colander and sprinkle with some salt to sweat it. Leave it for around 15 minutes, and rinse thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Using a blender or food processor, blend into a paste: shallots, garlic and chillies.
  4. Heat the cooking oil in a wok over medium high heat, and saute the blended spices and roasted shrimp paste, for around 3 minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the chopped red tomato, galangal and daun salam. Fry for another 2 minutes.
  6. Add the bitter gourd, stir.
  7. Add the water, salt and sugar. Cook for around 10 minutes until the liquids have evaporated and the bitter gourd is tender.
  8. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy!

    Transfer oseng-oseng pare to a serving plate


Notes

  • For a less bitter fruit, choose the bigger Chinese variety, while for more intense and bitter flavour, go for the smaller Indian variety.

Keywords: Spicy, Healthy, Shrimp Paste, Galangal

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