I’ll be very honest with you: I’m not a fan of ampalaya. I had an uncle who forced my cousins and I to eat ampalaya when we were young and it was very traumatic for me. My youngest cousin, six years younger than me, would soaked her share of ampalaya in patis (fish sauce) to drown out the bitterness. My solution was to drink lots of water with every mouthful of ampalaya. As an adult, even after all the marketing bombardment (that came with the development of ampalaya tablets and tea) about its health benefits, I still didn’t develop an acquired taste for it although all the oldies said it would come if I would just eat ampalaya on a regular basis.
I’m still trying. And after watching so many cooking shows where chefs sprinkle eggplants with salt to supposedly draw out the bitter juices (Eggplants are bitter? These people haven’t eaten ampalaya!), I decided to use the same technique to remove the bitterness of the ampalaya. Sounds more logical than precooking the ampalaya in salted water which would result in too much loss of nutrients.
First, trim the ampalaya by cutting off both ends. Cut in half lengthwise. With a sturdy spoon, scape off the seeds and membranes. Cut into 1/4 inch slices, or thinner if you can manage it.
Place the sliced ampalaya in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt.
Toss to coat every piece of ampalaya with salt. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze out the juices, rinse and drain. Use in your preferred ampalaya dish.
The technique works — but only up to a certain point. A certain (though, I must admit, quite tolerable) amount of bitterness remains.