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Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir Fry)

Goya Champuru is an Okinawan dish we often eat in Hawaii. It’s a healthy stir fry made with bitter melon (goya) pork belly, tofu, and eggs. So hearty and ono with a big bowl of rice!

Goya Champuru, ready to eat ^_^

I think we can hashtag this one #uglydelicious ^_^

What Is Goya Champuru?

Goya Champuru is an Okinawan dish. The dish is a literal translation of the name:

Goya = bitter melon 
Champuru = means “something mixed,” aka stir fry

Goya Champuru is a bitter melon stir fry!

More specifically, it’s a bitter melon stir fry with pork, tofu, and eggs. You can replace the pork with other meats like chicken or Spam (a very popular option). 

The stir fry is eaten hot, always with a big bowl of rice on the side. It’s a very comforting and hearty dish. 

Bitter melon, pork belly, tofu, and egg are the four key ingredients to making Goya Champuru

Okinawan Food in Hawaii

Why are we eating Okinawan food on a Hawaii blog?

Because Hawaii food is a generous mix of food from all cultures. The Okinawans first came to Hawaii in the early 1900s. And like we did with Japanese, Chinese, and Filipino, etc food, we embraced the cuisine and then adapted it to local Hawaii tastebuds. 

Goya Champuru in a Plate Lunch
Goya Champuru as part of a Plate Lunch

There are a bunch of Okinawan restaurants in Hawaii. If you look carefully, you’ll also find Okinawan dishes embedded into the menus of local Japanese restaurants. The most popular/mainstream Okinawan dishes I see in Hawaii are Rafute (Okinawan Shoyu Pork) and Andagi (Okinawan doughnuts). Here’s where we like to eat Okinawan food:

  • Teruya’s Andagi (Oahu) – Teruya’s is mainly a takeout bento shop, but everyone really comes for the andagi! You must go early in the morning to get a hot batch from the fryer (or call ahead to see what time they are frying)…it’s so important to eat andagi hot and fresh. Make sure to also try the sukiyaki bowl and sweet potato mochi while you’re there. Full post on Teruya’s Andagi here.
  • Hide-Chan Restaurant (Oahu) – Hide-Chan has a mix of Japanese and Okinawan food (there is a lot of overlap). Here you can opt to replace the pork with Spam for the goya champuru. Also try the goya/bittermelon tempura and the Rafute/Okinawan shoyu pork (they serve it with a very good miso sauce).
  • Sunrise Restaurant (Oahu) – This spot has been around forever! It’s really homey and cozy. Try the Okinawan soba and tofu-pork. Bonus: Sunrise is near a lot of other good eats like Leonard’s Bakery, Ono Seafood, and Waiola Shave Ice

Bitter melon, right after salting and draining.

Goya / Bitter Melon

I don’t know about you, but I love bitter melon. It often (unfairly) gets this reputation for being too bitter (it’s part of the appeal) and labeled as a health food. 

It is healthy and it is bitter…but those are good things! Bitter melon is believed to strongly boost your immune system and give you beautiful skin.

I grew up drinking my grandma’s pork and bitter melon soup, and eating goya champuru at restaurants. There are so many good ways to cook with bitter melon, it would be a shame to not to try them all ^_^

Bitter melon is part of the gourd family (it’s related to zucchini and cucumber, etc). It takes a few extra steps to cook (details in the next section), and is worth the effort. 

Right after we combine the cooked ingredients. Next step is to pour “The Sauce” on top and finish cooking.

Goya Champuru Method And Tips

Fyi, I’ve included affiliate links below. I may earn a small commission (at no cost to you), if you purchase through the links.

A few things to know before you start cooking:

How To Prepare Bitter Melon
To prep the bitter melon, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the white pith and seeds. Using a spoon helps and it shouldn’t take more than a minute to do each side. 

Then slice and salt the bitter melon. Put the sliced bitter melon in a bowl and sprinkle salt over it. Let it sit for ten minutes then rinse off the salt and pat dry. 

These two steps (removing pith/seeds and salting) are key to reducing the bitterness of bitter melon. 

Cut the pork belly slices into thirds before cooking

Cook Everything Separately
Goya Champuru is a stir fry. It is unique in that you must cook each element (bitter melon, pork, tofu, and egg) separately before combing them all for the “final stir fry.”

Another dish that also uses this cook-everything-separately method is our Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles). 

We cook each element separately because they each have different cooking times and style. If you cook them all together at once, you’d end up with something much less delicious. This method allows each ingredient to maintain it’s own essence. You want contrast of soft tofu with crisp bitter melon and the golden browned pork belly.

The Sauce 
The Sauce is what flavors the dish and brings everything together. The Sauce is made from the following ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon white miso
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake (ok to omit if you don’t have)
  • 1 teaspoon dashi powder (can replace with 1/4 cup dashi, and skip the 1/4 water)
  • 1/4 cup water

You mix all the above ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix well till it is all smooth, and then set it aside. We’ll pour the sauce in towards the end of cooking.

No sake? No problem. I love it because it gives an extra layer of flavor, but can definitely skip the sake.

Note: Every family seems to have a different version of The Sauce. Some don’t use miso. Others call for only dashi and soy sauce. Try the original recipe first and then free to experiment :).

Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

Katsuobushi (Bonito Flakes)

The last step of this recipe is to top the dish with a sprinkle of katsuobushi

Katsuobushi are dried and shaved bonito (tuna) flakes. I usually buy this brand of katsuobushi from our local Japanese market. It has 8 individual small packs, each one is good for a single serving.

Katsuobushi is a key ingredient in Okinawan and Japanese cooking. I often sprinkle it on top of this Hot Sesame Oil Tofu dish. We love eating quartered century eggs topped with soy sauce, sesame oil, and katsuobushi. It is also an essential ingredient for making dashi!

Sprinkle katsuobushi on top right before serving

Goya Champuru Recipe

See below and enjoy ^_^

Goya Champuru

Goya Champuru

Yield: Dinner for 3!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Goya Champuru is an Okinawan dish we often eat in Hawaii. It's a stir fry made from bitter melon (super healthy for you), pork belly, tofu, and eggs. Cook each part separately and then combine them together with a miso-based sauce. So ono with a big bowl of rice!

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. This dish is made of four main ingredients (bitter melon, tofu, pork belly, eggs), all of which need prepping.
  2. Prep the bitter melon. Cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and the white pith. Slice the bitter melon into half-moon pieces, about 1/2-inch thick. Put the bitter melon into a bowl, sprinkle salt all over and set aside for 10 minutes (the salt will help drain water from the bitter melon and make it less bitter). The rinse the bitter melon well under cold water and set aside to dry. Once dry, pan fry the bitter melon over medium heat with a little oil. Fry about 5 minutes until it's lightly browned. Set aside.
  3. Prep the tofu. Cut the tofu into small rectangle bricks (I make 16 pieces from one block of tofu). Pan fry in a little oil until all sides are brown. Set aside.
  4. Prep the pork belly. Cut the thin sliced pork belly into three pieces each (about 2-3" inches wide). Set aside.
  5. Prep the eggs. Beat the two eggs. Scramble until the eggs are just barely set. Remove to a bowl and set aside. 
  6. Make the sauce. Mix the white miso, soy sauce, sake, dashi powder, and water in a small bowl. Mix till everything is smooth. Set aside.
  7. Now we start cooking! In a large saute pan, saute the pork belly over medium-high heat for a few minutes until the pork belly starts to brown. Add the tofu, and saute for another minute. Add the bitter melon, and saute for another minute.
  8. Then pour in the sauce and mix so that everything is coated in a bit of the sauce. Slide in the scrambled eggs. Give everything a good stir (try your best not to break the bitter melon pieces) and slide into a serving dish. Top with a sprinkle of katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and then the goya champuru is ready to eat! Eat with rice ^_^

Ron Dearth

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Aloha Kathy, Gonna make this goya dish tonight, may use chicken instead of pork belly to satisfy my picky wife. I've heard goya has health giving properties.... hope to look 10 years younger tomorrow. Mahalo Ron in Maine

Kathy

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Aloha Ron, Definitely can use chicken in place of pork. Hope you and your wife enjoyed! :) - Kathy

Liv

Saturday 23rd of May 2020

Love love Goya Champuru, you make me want to order food delivery of Okinawan dishes tomorrow (midnight now in Sg ^^). A small tip from a local when I went there was to break the tofu by hand instead of cutting on cubes so that you get more crispy part and the sauce to get into the tofu ;D

Kathy Chan

Saturday 23rd of May 2020

Hi Liv! Same here! I could eat Goya Champuru every day ^_^ Ooo that is a great tip...such a good idea! Will definitely try that next time. Thank you for sharing! - Kathy

Alex

Thursday 21st of May 2020

This looks SO GOOD. I've followed this blog since the beginning (I don't remember how I found your tea blog, but I came from there) and as I'm stuck at home I've been rereading the older posts here. I love the way you write - very descriptive and with such a welcoming tone. I'm in Canada and unfortunately quite far away from any Hawaii food, but I live in an area where I can easily find ingredients for the recipes you post. I just wanted to say thank you for all the work you do writing this blog, it's much appreciated :)

Kathy Chan

Thursday 21st of May 2020

Hi Alex!

Thank you so much for the kind words, you really made my day ^_^ I'm so happy you can find the ingredients nearby...bring a taste of Hawaii and Okinawa to Canada! We've been eating this dish a lot heheh. Hope you enjoy!

- Kathy

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