Does Salt Curing Ampalaya Reduce Bitterness?May 14, 2017
As children, if there was a magical fruit that could make vegetables taste like chocolate, we’d be scarfing down the stuff like there’s no tomorrow. While adults tend to grow out of our aversion to most greens, some vegetables retain their fear factor status, namely, ampalaya. Its telling demeanor with its bumps and ridges does little to hide its most well-known characteristic: an intense bitterness familiar to its victims. It’s been said that a short soak in a light sprinkling of salt will eliminate or, at the very least, reduce ampalaya’s bitterness. An old wives tale spouted by mothers and grandmothers alike is put to the test, does this brief curing process actually affect the vegetable’s flavor or is it just hearsay giving us false hope?
We test this method to see if it actually makes our ampalaya more palatable. We prepared three different thicknesses of the slices, a cup of each from one millimeter to a centimeter thick and each soaked in half a teaspoon of salt for varying time periods of five to twenty minutes. We cut the vegetable in varying widths to find out if the salt only affected the surface of each slice or penetrated to the center. We let the mixture sit for five, ten, fifteen, and twenty minutes, to test if time affects how much bitterness the salt draws out from the ampalaya. After soaking, the slices are washed in water, supposedly less bitter, and ready to be cooked.
After each cup has soaked for the respective time period and washing the sliced ampalaya, the raw slices are noticeably limp and are slightly translucent. In each of the cups where the vegetable was soaking, cloudy water collected at the bottom—if the tales are to be believed, the water is the culprit behind the intense bitterness of vegetable.
When eaten, the ampalaya still retains some of its crunch but with a salty bite battling with the vegetable’s flavor instead of just a hit of the usual bitterness. The different thicknesses proves that the salt had very poor penetration, despite having different soaking times. Though the thinner slices picks up the salt better than its thicker counterparts, in the those slices the centers were still as bitter as before the salting process.
Despite having soaked these bad boys in salt for longer than necessary, the only notable difference in terms of taste was that the salt overpowered the bitterness. After tasting the water excreted by the ampalaya slices, the liquid only tasted slightly bitter—it seems that the offensive bitter flavor has more to do with the vegetable’s flesh than its liquid. Salt curing the ampalaya makes the vegetable more palatable, the salt counters the bitterness, though a trade-off to making it more approachable is losing its crunch and firmness. If you’re planning on making a crisp salad featuring this veggie, salt curing might not be the best option but if you plan on sautéing or stewing these, this method will help flavor your dish, though it’s more effective with thinner slices.