Bitter Melon and Pork Belly Simmered in Ume Sauce

Bitter melon is a specialty of Okinawa. Marinating and simmering with umeboshi reduces the bitterness.

Bitter Melon and Pork Belly Simmered in Ume Sauce
Photographed by Takeshi Noguchi

Recipe by
Maki Watanabe






Calorie count is for full recipe.
Excludes time needed to refrigerate.


  • 500 g pork belly (chunk)
  • 1 bitter melon (large) (300 g)

    Gourd with a distinctive bitterness. It is about 10-30 cm long and thin, with bumpy skin.

  • 1/2 bunch mitsuba
  • [Marinade]

    • 3-4 umeboshi (pitted) (salt content 12%)
    • 80 ml sake
    • 50 ml soy sauce
  • A dash of sesame oil
  • 1/3 tsp salt



Cut the pork in half lengthwise. Cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and white pith. Cut into pieces 4 cm wide.


Put the pork in a tray and cover with the [Marinade]. Tear the umeboshi into small pieces and rub into the pork. Add the bitter melon and coat with the [Marinade]. Marinate overnight in the fridge.


The marinated pork will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.


Heat a dash of sesame oil in a pot placed over medium heat. Remove the pork from the [Marinade] and lightly drain. Place in the pot and brown all sides. Retain the [Marinade].


Add the bitter melon and [Marinade] to the pot. Add enough water to allow the ingredients to be almost entirely covered in liquid. Remove the surface scum as you bring the pot to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add 1/3 tsp of salt and cover. Simmer for about an hour, turning occasionally until the liquid has been reduced by one third.


Cut the pork into easy-to-eat pieces and plate up with the bitter melon. Garnish with chopped mitsuba.


[To store]
Place in a food storage container. Will keep in the fridge for three days.