Goya is a staple vegetable used in Okinawa, and adds a unique, bitter flavor to the Okinawan dishes it’s present in. Also known as bitter melon or balsam pear, goya is a great vegetable to eat for its numerous vitamins and health benefits, and although it gets some getting used to as far as the flavor goes, goya is an under appreciated vegetable that deserves some recognition!
While it is pretty popular in Asian countries, goya does not find much ground in US or European soil. It’s starting to, but ever so slowly…
Before We Even Start, Why is Goya So Bitter?!
I thought this would be a good question to answer! The reason why goya is so bitter is because of the substance charantin, which is known to help lower blood glucose levels. Diabetics… This veggie is so good for you! If you’re diabetic and you haven’t tried this, maybe give it a shot~ Even though goya is considered the most bitter fruit or vegetable by most, the health benefits are awesome!
Which leads us to…
For diet-goers, this vegetable is for you! At 17 calories per 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces), goya is super flavorful and packs a crunch! And the crunch isn’t the only thing that goya packs in… It has a great amount of dietary fiber, minerals, anti-oxidants, and, of course, vitamins! The most notable nutrient that goya possesses is a phyto-nutrient called polypeptide-P, which has that charantin in it that helps blood glucose levels, but it’s also noted to have plenty of vitamin A, B, and C.
In addition, goya is useful in aiding digestion and also eradicating dangerous radicals that cause cancerous tumors in the body. Some lab tests are also being conducted that suggest goya can be effective towards treating HIV. If I ever heard of a super food, this is one of them!
ONE NOTE, HOWEVER: Pregnant woman should avoid goya, as there have been cases that goya induces the menstrual cycle, which can abort the baby. Don’t do that!
What Does Goya Look Like?
Goya come in all shapes and sizes, but the two most common ones are those from China and India. The Chinese-type goya, shown on the right side, features a smooth, but warty looking skin, and is pale green compared to the other popular variety. The Indian goya, shown on the left, is jagged on the outside, ending sharply at its edges. These goyas can be green to white in color.
Goya is picked when it is in green, and will be consumed when it is this color or at its early yellowing stage. When it becomes too ripe, the goya bursts open, and the seeds inside spill out. It’s kind of cool to look at, but then you’re all like, “awww, I can’t eat it now.” Goya ripens pretty fast, too, so try to always cook it the day of or store in the fridge for a couple of days.
Goya Used For Consumption
Now it all comes down to how goya is prepared. As well as being in stir fries (which, by the way, try out my Goya Champuru recipe! It’s really yummy), goya can be juiced, served raw, or even deep-fried! Because people complain about the bitterness of this vegetable, most people will slice it very thinly and salt for a little bit to try and extract the bitter juices.
Some popular dishes that you might want to try are:
- Goya Champuru— Okinawan stir fry with pork and shiitake mushrooms
- Canh Khổ Qua— Vietnamese stuffed goya soup
- Pinakbet— Filipino stir fry with various veggies
- Karele ka Achaar— Northern India’s pickled goya with spices
So, what recipes have you tried that make goya super tasty? Do you like goya? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂