Today a nice Japanese colleague of ours took us to a traditional market street in the Bandobashi area of Yokohama to introduce us to a fantastic soba noodle restaurant and to show us around some shops. We took the opportunity to ask her about some of the local fruit and vegetables as she is an excellent chef and we still don’t know what half the local produce actually is.
Additionally we have been getting frustrated at times by the availability and prohibitively high price of many of the groceries that we were used to using in Europe or even Shanghai, especially fruit and veg. The solution is of course to cook with seasonal Japanese ingredients, which are much more reasonably priced. I spotted a large crazy looking vegetable for 50 yen, which I later realised I have actually eaten before: Goya or ‘bitter melon’. In fact nothing like a melon, but more like an incredibly bitter cucumber. But how to make a delicious dish out of this strange and bitter vegetable?
Our Japanese friend told me about the traditional Okinawan dish Goya Champuru ゴーヤチャンプルー and I thought I’d share my attempt. I made this with one slight variation – without the pork. This is because I had already bought salmon fillets for dinner at this point. So this became our vegetarian side dish. I am very much an amateur chef, so follow this simplified recipe at your own peril, but I was fairly happy with it, especially considering the bargain price of the ingredients!
(Vegetarian) Goya Champuru recipe
- 2 x Goya
- 3 x eggs
- 2 x garlic cloves
- 1 small pack of deep fried tofu
- soy sauce
- Chop the goya in half (end to end) and spoon out the insides. Next slice it into small pieces.
- Boil it in some salted water for 1-2 minutes. If you really hate the bitter taste, you could boil it even slightly longer.
- Whilst the goya is blanching, chop the fried tofu. If it is wet you can soak up some of the water with kitchen roll first. Chop some garlic too.
- Fry the garlic, goya and tofu on a medium – fairly high heat so that the tofu browns a little
- Add some soy sauce and seasoning
- At the end add in some gently whisked egg to egg fry the mixture
- You can top with sesame seeds and more soy sauce to taste
- Voilà! I served this with salmon fillets, but you could eat it alone or with a piece of meat if you wish
I wouldn’t eat Goya every day, but it tasted good as part of this dish, and would probably taste even better as part of a pork Goya Champuru if you’re into pork. There are plenty of recipes for this online such as here. I hope I can learn to cook with more Japanese ingredients in the future! What are your suggestions for cheap meals with local Japanese ingredients?