USAPEEC ASEAN

photo: Bitter melon soup (Photo: NungNing’s Shutterstock)

Bitter is not a palatable taste, obviously. It is perceived as unpleasant and disagreeable. As such, modern food has largely removed bitter from its flavor palette, focusing on the sweet, salty, and umami flavors instead.

However, bitterness is an indication that the food is rich in antioxidants capable of boosting immunity systems against inflammation and chronic diseases. Chinese cuisine for instance considers bitter a medicinal flavor. Most of its medicinal and tonic soups, and dishes are bitter.

In fact, bitter is slowly making its way back into modern cuisine. According to Top Flavor Trends for 2019 by Innova Market Insights, ‘bitter is back’! Leading the change are the health-conscious consumers promoting diets such as the Paleo diet which encouraged consumption of raw vegetables before the bitterness (and all things good) can be processed out of the food.

Bitter is the taste of many daily consumption items in Asia. There is the morning coffee – a thick and bitter drink to kickstart the morning. In desserts like crème brulee, there is a hint of bitterness from burnt caramel to enhance the sweetness of a crème brulee dessert. So, when one steps into a Chinese restaurant next time, order a chicken stir-fry with bitter melon or a bitter melon soup. These are healthy dishes packed with nutrients and fiber. They may taste better than they sound.

photo: Stir-fry Bitter Melon with Chicken and Egg (Photo: Atiwan Janprom’s Shutterstock)