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5 from 3 votes

Stir Fry Beef in Black Bean Sauce with Bitter Melon (豉汁苦瓜炒牛肉)

This is super popular in the south of China. You will find it in school canteens, takeout restaurants, regular family dinner tables, or at tea house dim sum places.  I grew up with it and am excited to share it with you.


For the beef marinade:

For the sauce:



  • Cut 1 lb of beef across the muscle grains into 1/5 of an inch slices.
  • Marinate the beef with 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/3 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp of cornstarch, 1/2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine, 1/2 tbsp of soy sauce. Mix well then coat the beef with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Let it sit for 15 minutes
  • Quarter the bitter melon. Remove the white spongy part by using a knife then scrape it completely with a rounded teaspoon.
  • Cut the bitter melon with a 45-degree angle into 1/2 of an inch thick slices.  Season it with 1 tsp of salt. Rub for a minute or 2. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  • Squeeze out as much moisture out of the bitter melon. Discard the liquid.  as you can. Rinse the bitter melon with cold running water several times to wash off the salt. Drain thoroughly. Set it aside.
  • Slice 2 cloves of garlic and 1/2 inch of ginger thinly. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, combine the follow ingredients: 1 tbsp of soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce, 2 tbsp of black bean sauce, 2 tsp of cornstarch, and 3/4 cup of beef stock. Mix well and set it aside.
  • Turn the heat to high and heat the wok until it is smoking hot. Add 2-3 tbsp of cooking oil. Loosen up the beef before adding it to the wok so they don’t tangle together. The wok is super-hot. You only need to stir this for a minute or two. Once most of the beef has changed color, turn off the heat. Take the beef out. Be sure to tilt the wok so you can leave the oil in there.
  • Turn the heat back on medium. Toss in the garlic, ginger, and bitter melon. Stir this for a few minutes or until the bitter melon is a bit soft. Pour in the sauce and introduce the beef back into the wok. Keep mixing for a minute or 2.
  • Serve with white rice.