Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bittermelon at Tasty Noodle House - Irvine

There are few foods on Earth that does what it says and means what it does more honestly than bittermelon. Bittermelon is bitter. No bones about it. It’s in the name, for gosh sakes. And it's not just bitter, but astringent. If the flavor had a color, it would be whatever the opposite of sunlight would be. It has a negative presence on your palate, overpowering your tongue like a chemical warfare attack. It's the anti-matter of ice cream. Some have argued that bittermelon tastes that way because it's a deterrent—this is a plant that does NOT want to be eaten.

Yet, I love it. And so do millions of Filipinos, Indians, Chinese, and Okinawans.

I do not know where or when I acquired the taste for it. I’m glad that my parents never fed it to me as a child. Bittermelon is the sort of thing that can traumatize young, impressionable tastebuds. People I know who revile the stuff are results of the false assumption that if you feed a kid something they hate long enough, they’ll grow to like it. Bittermelon doesn’t work like that.

To me, bittermelon is like Terrence Malick movies; you have to be a grownup to endure it, and eventually, enjoy it.

The best I’ve had recently is from Tasty Noodle House in Irvine, which isn’t even known for the dish. But its bittermelon with crumbled salted egg and scrambled egg is kind of amazing. It’s as greasy a stir fry as it can get, but the bitterness answers the grease, and the two kinds of egg balance the bitterness. Also, the more you reheat the leftovers, the better the bittermelon tastes, which is not to say it becomes less bitter or more mellow, just softer.

As for the films of Terrence Malick? Blech!

Tasty Noodle House
15333 Culver Dr
Ste 320
Irvine, CA 92604
(949) 654-3770

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