This is based on a recipe from “Otsumami Yokocho” Volume 1, page 71. “Chanpuru” has many recipe variations. “Chanpuru” in Okinawan means “to mix or mixed” as I understand it. The one with bitter melon (or goya ゴーヤ), “Goya Chanpuru”, appears to be the most popular type of Chanpuru. This dish was not at all known outside Okinawa 沖縄 when I lived in Japan (especially in Hokkaido which is the other end country) but now it has become a very popular dish all over Japan. It even made an appearance in “Otsumami Yokocho”. I made a few changes in the recipe; for one thing, I refuse to use Spam in my dish, as instructed by the original recipe.
Bitter melon or “goya” (in Okinawan language, “nigauri” 苦瓜 in Japanese but “goya” ゴーヤ is how this vegetable is called all over Japan now) has been available in Chinese markets here in the U.S. I found this one of the regular supermarket and decided to make this dish.
For two small servings to accompany sake, I used bitter melon (1/2), firm tofu (1/3), and egg (1, beaten). I did not use Spam as called for in the recipe (my wife absolutely prohibits me from even mentioning the name because of her childhood experience while at summer camp where they served spam literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner–too much of a good thing). Instead I used another pork product; thinly sliced leftover roasted pork tenderloin (5-6 slices). I suppose, in an authentic Okinawan recipe, some kind of salt preserved pork is used but Spam has been also popular there (due to American military influences).
Bitter melon: I cut it in half lengthwise and scoped out the inner “guts” (seeds and whatever around them) using a teaspoon. I sliced the halves into 2-3 mm (1/8 inch) thickness (It can be thicker if you like). I salted, mixed and let stand for 30 minutes. I washed them in water and squeezed out the excess moisture by wringing the pieces in a paper towel. This process reduces the bitterness but if you like the bitter taste skip this step.
Tofu: I wrapped it in a paper towel with a small plate on the top as a weight and let it sit on the cutting board for 30 minutes, so that the water content is reduced. I cut the tofu in half to increase the surface areas.
In a non-stick frying pan on a medium flame, I added dark roasted sesame oil (1 tbs) and the tofu cubes without crumbling them. I fried them for 5 minutes on each side or until the surface browned. I moved the tofu to the side of the frying pan and added the bitter melon slices and stir fried for 2-3 minutes. Then I added the pork. I took the tofu I just browned, crumbled it and continued to stir fry it together with the other ingredients for another minute or two. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and soy sauce (1/2 tsp, optional). I added the beaten egg next and stirred. When the egg was cooked, I remove the dish from the heat.
This is a very homey comforting dish and the slight bitter taste of “goya” is rather unique. This will go well with any drink but especially with sake or maybe with “awamori” 泡盛 (not for us though).