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An acquired taste becomes a favorite over the years. Growing up, we’ve always been admonished at the dining table to “Eat your vegetables.” Over time, I have learned to consume my share of veggies not just to keep the peace, but because I’ve actually developed a love for veggie dishes.

After subsequent days of indulging in rich, fatty foods (a.k.a. joy!) my palate turns conscientious and begins to hanker for the clean, bitter-sour flavor of this dish. I learned to make bitter melon salad from watching our helpers prepare it countless times when I was growing up. I only made this myself when I moved away from home and had my own kitchen. The addition of the diced red egg evolved later on, probably an influence from my years living in Cebu, as the Ilonggo version of this is sans egg.

I find that this salad is best eaten after it’s been chilled for at least an hour in the fridge, with a side dish of grilled pork belly. I kid you not.

1 fairly large bitter melon, halved lengthwise, cleaned, and sliced into thin half-moon pieces
1 red egg, chopped
handful of rock salt to rinse the bitter melon with
2 stalks scallions, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
pinch of chilli flakes
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
dash of nam pla or light soy sauce
1 tsp. calamansi juice (2 calamansi)
salt, to taste
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Put sliced bitter melon in a colander. Add a small handful of rock salt and squeeze/rub into the bitter melon until some of the juice is expelled. Rinse, drain, and squeeze out excess water.

Combine bitter melon, tomatoes, onions, scallions, and red egg. Toss lightly to mix and transfer to a serving dish.

In another bowl, stir together chili flakes, brown sugar, vinegar, nam pla, calamansi juice, salt, and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss again to coat with the dressing.

Serve immediately or cool in the fridge an hour prior to serving.