K’s Kitchen – Goya Chanpuru (Okinawan Bitter Gourd Stir Fry with Tofu)

“Do you want some bitter gourds I grew?”

I was suddenly asked this by a coworker one morning. His Facebook has been full of pictures of vegetables that he grew in his garden, and I had mentioned to him before that I was envious of his fresh vegetables.

“Really??? Sure!” I said, unable to believe that he had really brought some for me.

“You sure? Bitter gourds are not very popular.  Do you know how to prepare them?”

Yes, I do!!!  Bitter gourds, called Goya in Japanese, were not always available in Tokyo. Until I was in high school, Goya was something people only ate when they went to Okinawa or other places in the south of Japan.  Since then, the Okinawan dish Goya Chanpuru has become popular in mainland Japan as well. The bitterness of the gourds is refreshing in the hot summer!

Yield: Serves 1-2
Prep time: Under 30 minutes

1/2 bitter gourd
100g thinly sliced pork (Spam tends to be the traditional meat, but I like using pork better)
1/2 firm tofu, drained and pressed
1 beaten egg
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
high smoke point oil
bonito flakes

1. Drain and press the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels and putting a plate on top of it.
2. Cut the bitter gourd in half lengthwise, and remove the inside fluff. This is easiest to do with a spoon.
3. Slice the bitter gourd and the pork.
4. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pork and stir fry until it changes color. Add the bitter gourds.
5. Break apart the tofu with your hands, and add to the frying pan. Then add the soy sauce.
6. Add the egg and cook quickly.
7. Serve topped with bonito flakes

– Okinawan tofu is drier than tofu in mainland Japan. I always use firm tofu (“momen tofu”) that I press for 15-20 minutes
– Avoid stir frying the tofu for long in order to keep the dish from getting soggy

Goya chanpuru is probably the most popular Okinawan dish in mainland Japan. Chanpuru is an Okinawan term that refers to a stir fry dish with tofu. Amazingly, the word Chanpuru comes from the Indonesian/Malay word campur!

Hope you enjoyed this dish!

xoxo, K

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