Goya champuru ゴーヤチャンプルー

Goya champuru. photo by Namiko Chen

Goya champuru. photo by Namiko Chen

Okinawa’s most iconic goya champuru is a stir-fry dish with bitter melon, tofu, egg and pork belly. This popular savory dish is a truly rustic yet well-balanced meal to serve with steamed rice and a side of miso soup.

Goya champuru (ゴーヤチャンプル) is a popular stir-fry dish that came from the sunny island of Okinawa in southern Japan. Made with vibrant green bitter melon, tofu, pork belly and egg, it is packed with protein and nutrients.

As I am planning my first trip to Okinawa this winter, I am excited to discover many more delicious Okinawan dishes. But first, let me introduce this simple yet absolutely healthy home cooked dish of Okinawa — goya champuru with you.

What is Goya Champuru?
Goya (ゴーヤ) is an Okinawan dialect for nigauri (にがうり). It’s bitter melon or bitter gourd in English. As you can probably guess, bitter melon is famous for its bitterness, but it is remarkably nutritious.

Champuru (チャンプルー) refers to Okinawan stir-fry dishes, meaning “something mixed” in Okinawan. Stir-fry dishes are a big part of Okinawan cuisine. There are different types of champuru. Usually, it contains tofu with some kind of vegetables, meat or fish. Some of the common ingredients include Spam, pork, egg, bean sprouts and bitter melon. Spam is not typically used in mainland Japan, but Okinawan cuisine uses Spam due to the influence from the U.S. Navy.

Growing up in the Yokohama (Tokyo area) in the ‘70s through ‘90s, Okinawan restaurants were rare, so I never had a chance to try this Okinawan dish.

Through the NHK TV drama “Churasan” (ちゅらさん) broadcasted in 2001, many people became interested in Okinawan culture and visited Okinawa on vacation. The popularity of Okinawan food spread all over mainland Japan, and we started to see more Okinawan restaurants popping up everywhere. Even Japanese housewives started to cook Okinawan dishes at home.

5 Health Benefits of Bitter Melon

1. Treats Skin Condition
Bitter melon juice has powerful antioxidants with Vitamin C and A, which prevents premature skin aging, diminishes wrinkles, reduces acne and helps in treating eczema. Bitter melon has four times the amount of vitamin C than in lemon, and five times more than tomatoes.

Usually, vitamins nutrients are reduced when cooked, but this isn’t the case with bitter melon, which is why it’s perfect to cook Goya champuru!

2. May Reduce Cholesterol Levels
Studies have shown that bitter melon may decrease cholesterol levels.

3. Helps in Maintaining Blood Sugar Levels
Studies on people who have diabetes have shown that bitter melon decreases blood sugar levels.

4. Fights Cancer
According to research, bitter melon may have compounds that have “cancer-fighting properties.”

5. Boosts Your Immune System
Bitter melon is a source of many different antioxidants that make it a powerful defense mechanism against illnesses in the body.

Helpful Tips on How to Choose, Store and Cook Bitter Melon
1. How to choose the freshest bitter melon:
Bitter melon’s season in Japan is from July to September. You can also find bitter melon at farmers markets or Asian grocery stores in the U.S. these days. For the best taste, choose bitter melons that are relatively smaller, with lots of bumps. The surface should have a fresh shiny green and you want to pick one that feels firm to the touch.

2. How to store:
To keep bitter melon fresh for a long time, remove the seeds and pith first, as they go bad quickly. Make sure you remove the inner white pith clean as that’s where the bitterness most concentrates. After slicing, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for later use.

3. How to reduce bitterness:

I learned to sprinkle some salt, but I also heard that it enhances the bitterness instead. Some suggest cooking it in lightly salted boiling water. Then again, I heard that this method also causes bitterness. I assume everyone’s grandma suggests something different, so you just need to try to find the method that works for you. I use the salt method, as it draws out moisture with some bitter flavors.

While this amazing gourd may have an acquired taste, there are plenty of good reasons to eat it. In this homey Okinawan stir-fry, crunchy crisp bitter melon is combined with soft creamy tofu and cooked in a delicious umami-rich dashi and soy sauce seasoning. It’s truly a healthy and everyday meal you can serve for the family. I’d like you to give it a try.

Do you have any experience cooking with bitter gourd (goya)? What are your favorite ways of cooking with it? How do you remove the bitterness of the gourd? Share with us!

Goya Champuru
Okinawa’s most iconic Goya Champuru is a stir-fry dish with bitter melon, tofu, egg and pork belly. This popular savory dish is a truly rustic yet well-balanced meal to serve with steamed rice and a side of miso soup.

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 40 mins
Servings: 2

1 bitter melon (8 oz, 227 g)
1 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (for bitter melon)
14 oz medium-firm tofu (momen dofu)
6 slices sliced pork belly
2 large eggs (50 g each w/o shell)
2 1/2 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.) (divided)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Katsuo dashi
3 Tbsp katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) (I used one 3-g package and more for garnish)
1/4 cup boiling water (4 Tbsp)

• Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking/

To read the full recipe, visit https://www.justonecookbook.com/goya-champuru.

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