Goya champuru is a famous stir fry dish made with Okinawan bitter melon. It's a popular homecooked dish all across Japan due to it's unusual bitter, yet refreshing taste. It's also quick and easy to make!
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What is goya champuru?
Goya champuru is a homely dish in which Okinawan bitter melon (goya) is stir-fried with island tofu (Okinawan firm tofu) and eggs to make the flavour softer and easier to eat, it is a delicious dish that you can eat every day and not get tired of. In Japan, Goya Champuru is so well known throughout the country that it is the first dish that immediately comes to mind when we think of Okinawan cuisine.
The word "Champuru" means "jumbled" in the Okinawan dialect, and is a dish made with tofu and a variety of other ingredients. When using goya (bitter melon), it becomes "goya champuru," and when using māminā (Okinawan dialect for beansprouts), it is called "māminā champuru," so the name of the ingredient used is prefixed to the word "champuru". By the way, the word "champuru" is said to be derived from the Malay or Indonesian word "campur".
Since island tofu is difficult to obtain outside of Okinawa, it is often substituted with regular firm tofu (momen in Japanese).
What is goya/bitter melon?
Goya (also known as bitter melon) is a cucurbitaceous plant whose unripe green fruits are mainly used as a vegetable. This vegetable has been eaten in Okinawa since old times, and its strong bitterness is both its appeal and also a reason why children dislike it. The seeds and florets have a strong bitterness, so make sure to scoop them out with a spoon.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries' Annual Production of Regional Specialty Vegetables (2020), goya shipments totaled 17,900 tons nationwide, with Okinawa (6,070 tons), Miyazaki (2,600 tons), and Kagoshima (1,670 tons) as the main production areas. Most production areas in Japan are in the south.
Goya champuru can be made with a wide variety of ingredients, including vegetables that are easily available or can be harvested in a home garden, or with ingredients that are already in your fridge. After all, "chanpuru" means "jumbled".
Apart from goya, vegetables such as cabbage, onions, carrots, and bean sprouts, tofu, pork, corned beef, and eggs are often used.
But in this recipe, I use following ingredients:
- Goya (bitter melon)
- Pork belly
- Firm tofu
- Soy sauce
- Sesame oil
- Katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
See recipe card for details and quantities.
You can easily make goya champuru suitable for vegetarians. Simply omit the pork belly and katsuobushi!
I know goya is not that common vegetable to get around the world, so here is the list of substitute vegetables that you can use to replace goya:
Or you can use your local favourite vegetable to make your own kind of champuru!
Instructions on how to make homemade goya champuru
Goya champuru is an easy dish to make, but here are a few important steps to cook each ingredient to perfection! Here is my step by step recipe including how to prepare the goya and tofu. For the full ingredients list, see the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Prepare the goya
I have to admit goya is one of the most bitter vegetables I have had in my whole life, but the bitterness is part of the beauty of this unique vegetable. It is important to prepare goya properly to soften the bitterness slightly and improve the overall flavor.
First, wash the goya and cut off the top. Next, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds using spoon.
The inside is not quite as bitter as the outer green part, so don't worry about getting every last bit here.
Next, turn the goya halves over (this will stop them from rolling) and cut slices about 5mm thick.
If it's cut too thin, the texture will be lost, and if cut too thick, the bitter taste will become stronger and more obvious, so it is important to cut at just the right thickness.
Next, rub the sliced goya with salt and sugar. The salt helps brings out the flavor, while the sugar helps balance the bitterness. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes are up, wash the goya with cold water.
Pour the contents of the bowl through a sieve or colander to drain the water and set the goya aside for later.
Prepare the tofu
Before stir frying tofu, you need to remove the excess liquid. Rather than pressing the tofu (which takes time), I wrap it with kitchen paper and microwave it for 1 ½ minutes at 600W.
Allow it to cool for a few minutes, remove the kitchen paper and then pat it dry.
You can now cut it into bitesize cubes like this.
It's now ready to cook!
Fry the tofu separately
For this recipe, I like to stir fry the tofu on its own. This allows it to become crispy and turn a beautiful golden colour without interference from the fats and liquids from the other ingredients.
Remove it from the pan and set it aside so that it stays beautiful and doesn't break or become overcooked!
Brown the pork, then stir fry with goya and tofu
Using the same pan, fry the pork belly until it's sealed on both sides and add the sliced goya. Stir fry them together for 2-3 minutes.
Next, add the tofu back in with a pinch of salt and pepper and mix.
Add a dash of soy sauce and mix again.
Add the egg
Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and pour it into the pan.
Allow the eggs to become half cooked before mixing. If you mix too early, the egg will break up into small pieces and become lost amongst the other ingredients.
Once the egg is half cooked, add a dash of soy sauce, mix quickly and then remove from the heat. The eggs will continue to cook in the residual heat from the other ingredients, taking it off the stove early prevents overcooked rubbery egg!
Dish up and sprinkle with kastuobushi (bonito flakes).
Goya Champuru goes well with rice or noodles!
I hope you enjoyed this classic Okinawan dish! If you try the recipe, be sure to let me know what you thought in the comments below. Happy cooking!
I hope you enjoy this classic Okinawa style home cooked dish!Print
Step by step recipe
Goya champuru (Okinawan bitter melon stir fry)
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 2 portions 1x
How to make simple and refreshing Okinawan bitter melon stir fry (goya champuru) with firm tofu, thinly sliced pork belly and goya topped with bonito flakes. (Serves 2)
- ½ goya (approx 150g)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp sugar
- 150g pork belly thinly sliced
- 1 pinch salt and pepper
- 200g firm tofu
- 1 egg whisked
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 5g katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- First, cut the goya in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
- Cut the goya into 5mm slices and place them in a bowl.
- Add the salt and sugar to the bowl and massage them into the surface of the goya. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Next, take the firm tofu and wrap it with kitchen paper. Place it on a microwavable plate and microwave for 1 ½ minutes at 600W to remove excess liquid. (No need for plastic wrap.) Leave to cool for a few minutes.
- In the meantime, wash the goya with fresh water and drain.
- Once the tofu is cool enough to touch, cut it into bitesize cubes and heat a frying pan on medium.
- Once the pan is hot, add a drizzle of sesame oil. Add the tofu and brown on each side. Once it's brown and crispy, remove it from the pan and set aside for later.
- Using the same pan, add the sliced pork belly and fry until the surface is sealed on both sides.
- Add the goya to the pan and stir fry with the pork for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tofu back into the pan and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together and add half of the soy sauce.
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg. Pour it into the pan and allow it to cook until half done (do not mix at this point).
- Once it's half cooked, add the other half of the soy sauce and mix thoroughly. Remove from the heat.
- Plate up and sprinkle katsuobushi over the top.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Stir fry
- Method: Stir fry
- Cuisine: Japanese
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What is goya?
Goya is the Okinawan name for the cucurbitaceous plant often known as bitter melon or bitter goard in English. In Japanese, it is known as both goya (ゴーヤー) and "nigauri" (苦瓜) which directly translates as "bitter melon". This unique ingredient is primarily used as a vegetable in its green, unripe form.
What is the meaning of "champuru"?
Champuru is an Okinawan word that means "jumbled" and is said to be derived from the Malay or Indonesian word "campur". Champuru generally refers to stir fry dishes which can contain a number of different ingredients, the most popular being goya champuru and māminā champuru (beansprouts).
Where does goya come from?
It is believed that goya originated in Africa and spread across Asia. It is commonly used in East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian cooking.
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