It is the middle of summer and yet it’s been raining hard. So, I did not hesitate to make this Thai Pork-Filled Ampalaya Soup, each segment stuffed with a mound of ground pork. I like this soup dish a lot because its flavors remind me of most Filipino dishes. The pork stuffing was seasoned with rice wine and soy sauce. Then the stuffed vegetable pieces were dropped into the briskly boiling clear vegetable broth. The aroma of the light, yet hearty broth filled the air. Soup was on and we couldn’t wait.
If you’ve never had bitter melon or ampalaya as Filipinos call it, then now is a good time to try it. My parents used to serve this vegetable weekly when I was growing up. Don’t be fooled by the word “bitter” in the vegetable’s name. The flavor is an acquired taste. True, biting into the vegetable slices you sense a slight bitterness. But as you go on, there is a hint of sweetness to the firm texture that reminds you of a gourd or squash. It makes more sense to pay attention to the vegetables various nutritional and health benefits when enjoying it at the table.
I was inspired to make this soup meal at home after we had it at a Thai restaurant. The restaurant’s soup was spiked with chilies, though. I decided to tone down the spicy notes so my homecooked version omitted the spice. And because I was in a rush to get dinner ready, I used my new favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot. Like an assistant cook, this efficient multi-cooker did all the work for me after I dropped all the ingredients in the broth. In minutes, dinner was ready when the Instant Pot’s beep sounded. I carefully lifted the lid after releasing the sealing valve. The savory aroma of the clear broth flew up into the air in an instant. I ladled the stuffed ampalaya segments swirling around the broth in individual bowls. The strong rains outside our window were relentless and I could hear the heavy droplets on our rooftop. But the piping-hot bowls of soup on the table were soothing and comforting. You can’t complain when the meal is this good.
Instant Pot Thai Pork-Filled Ampalaya Soup
- 1 large or 2 medium-sized pieces sliced, seeds and white membrane removed ampalaya (bitter melon)
- 1/2 pound for filling ground pork
- 1 Tablespoon for filling shao xing rice wine
- 2 Tablespoons for filling soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cloves peeled, minced garlic
- 1 whole chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons patis fish sauce
- 8 cups organic vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- for serving steamed rice
- To cook in the Instant Pot:
- Wash the ampalaya and slice in 1/2 inch-sized pieces. Using a small, sharp knife remove and discard the white membrane with the seeds in the center. Set aside the ampalaya slices.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the filling ingredients: pork, rice wine, soy sauce. Mix well. Stuff the center of the ampalaya pieces with 1 to 2 teaspoons of the pork filling. Set aside the meat-filled ampalaya slices.
- Preheat the Instant Pot by selecting Saute.
- After 1 to 2 minutes, when the inside pot becomes hot, add the garlic and onions. Saute till garlic is fragrant and onions are translucent in about 2 minutes. Add the patis (fish sauce) to the mixture.
- Click Cancel to turn off the Saute function.
- Pour the vegetable broth into the inside pot. Add the stuffed ampalaya slices. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Secure the lid of the Instant Pot. Check that the release valve is set to Sealing.
- Select Manual and cook at High Pressure for 8 minutes.
- When the Instant Pot whistle signals that cooking is complete, use a quick release.
- Carefully open the lid. Stir soup gently. Ladle into individual bowls and serve warm with rice.
- Note:After the initial Saute, it takes about 17 to 20 minutes for the Instant Pot to pre-heat before the High Pressure cooking time begins.
- To cook stove-top:
- Wash and slice the ampalaya into 1/2-inch sized pieces. With a small knife, remove and discard the inner white membrane which has the seeds. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix the ground pork, soy sauce and rice wine.
- Stuff each ampalaya segment with approximately 1 to 2 teaspoons of the ground meat mixture. Set aside.
- In a large stockpot, over medium high heat, place the vegetable oil. Saute the garlic, onions and patis.
- Add the vegetable broth. Cove and let the broth to boil.
- Into the boiling broth, drop the stuffed ampalaya slices. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 16 to 18 minutes or till vegetable turns a light green-yellow hue and softens. Serve piping hot in individual soup bowls.
- Cook's comments: If preferred, ground beef is also a good substitute for pork in this recipe.
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Did you like this recipe? I have more Filipino Instant Pot recipes in my newest cookbook Instant Filipino Recipes: My Mother’s Traditional Philippine Cooking in A Multicooker Pot. Buy my cookbooks and books on Amazon.com – sold worldwide in paperback and Kindle format.
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