Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)

This Vietnamese classic is easy to make!

Photo by Allison of Culinary Cupcake

Bitter melon or hu qua is a commonly used vegetable in Vietnam. It is a relative of cucumbers. Bitter melon has large bumps and ridges, and is a long vegetable that grows on a vine. It is highly nutritious with a strong bitter taste. The vegetable can be stir fried, or stuffed and braised. Canh Kho Qua or stuffed bitter melon soup is a very popular dish in Vietnamese cuisine.

Bitter melon has always been in my life. When I was little my grandmother would let me garden with her. She grew bitter melon on the side of her house. She strung twine and string from her back porch to a nearby tree. The plant would vine across and the bitter melons would hang down. Then when they were ready she would let me harvest them. I thought they looked like alien vegetables with their ridges and bumps. She and I would pick the bitter melons, and then my father would cook them into soup.

Canh Kho Qua is one of my father’s favorite foods. He would always say that the dish was to create balance in life. He often said “Life needs a little bitterness so you can better appreciate the good things”. Whenever he could get his hands on bitter melon he would turn them into Canh Kho Qua. I would watch him mix the filling, stuff and braise the bitter melons. It was a very simple process.

Of course, when I was dating my husband I found out that bitter melon soup was one of his favorite foods as well. I tried to make Canh Kho Qua a few times when we first started dating, and my first attempts were not the best. My father finally gave me a recipe and my husband was ecstatic. It has been a few years of experimenting and I believe I have a recipe that is satisfactory. Please enjoy!

Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua) Recipe

Yields 2-3 servings

Prep Time 10 minutes

Cook Time 20 to 30 minutes

Beer Pairing Suggestion: Lager


2 Vietnamese bitter melons (about 6-8 inches long)


1/2 pound ground pork

1/4 onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons fish sauce


1 cup chicken broth

2 1/2 cups water

Garnishes: Cilantro and green onion


Cut bitter melons in half or thirds cross-wise.

Hallow out the inner flesh and seeds of the bitter melon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together all the filling ingredients.

Stuff filling into the hallowed out bitter melons.

In a pot, bring broth and water to a boil.

Add stuffed bitter melons to the pot. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the bitter melons are tender.

Ladle broth and stuffed bitter melons into warmed bowls.

Serve hot and garnish with cilantro and green onion.

Substitution: For a leaner meal, substitute ground pork with ground turkey.

Variation: Feel free to add some more vegetables to the filling! Shredded carrots or cabbage can work well.


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