Bitter melon is an ingredient that you either love—or don't. Chef Dennis Lee of California's Namu Stonepot restaurants, and Kristyn Leach, of Namu Farm, which provides the restaurants with Asian produce, both adore it. Lee thinks it speaks to their appreciation of all aspects of life that are both bitter and sweet. This is a riff on a soup he grew up eating. Read more about Leach and Lee.

EatingWell Magazine, October 2021


Credit: Ryan Liebe

Recipe Summary

35 mins
12 hrs
4 hrs 30 mins


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Place oxtails in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate, changing the water several times, for 12 hours.

  • Drain and rinse the oxtails. Place in a large pot and cover with fresh water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 6 minutes. Drain and rinse the oxtails. Wash the pot.

  • Combine 8 cups water, shiitakes, anchovies and kombu in the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids, and return the broth to the pot.

  • Add the oxtails to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover and cook, skimming fat and foam from the surface occasionally and adding more water as needed to keep the oxtails covered, until they are almost falling off the bone, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

  • Meanwhile, rinse bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds, scraping out as much of the pithy part as you can. Cut the bitter melon into 1-inch-long sticks. (You should have about 1 cup.) Soak in cold water, changing the water several times, for 3 hours.

  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the bitter melon and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon. Add daikon to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Use the slotted spoon to transfer to a plate.

  • When the oxtails are tender, transfer to a clean plate. Let cool for 5 minutes. Skim any fat or foam from the broth. Drain the bitter melon and add to the broth, along with the daikon and garlic. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the oxtails (or just the meat) to the broth and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with scallions, if desired.


Dried anchovies add rich flavor to soups and stews or can be eaten as a snack. Kombu (dried kelp) is used to add umami to many Korean soups. Some large grocery stores sell these Korean pantry staples, but you may need to visit your local Korean or Asian market or order them online.

Nutrition Facts

1 1/2 cups
418 calories; fat 36g; cholesterol 81mg; sodium 421mg; carbohydrates 2g; dietary fiber 1g; protein 24g; saturated fat 14g; vitamin a iu 136IU; potassium 149mg.