Bitter-sweet is how I would describe my relationship with Ampalaya, the extremely bitter vegetable I hated and avoided whenever my lola cooked pakbet but I have also come to love it as the lead character of my hubby's first published children's book, Alamat ng Ampalaya (The Legend of the Bitter Gourd).
|Source: Adarna House|
Often, when people find out I have one degree of separation from the anti-hero of this modern children's tale, I am asked if I like the bitter gourd. I would often reply, "yes but only if it is cooked the way I like it." Problem is, I have rarely encountered cooks or chefs who could make me eat ampalaya. Bitter has never been my thing.
|Source: Flora de Filipinas|
Dr. Andrew Weil, the man who established the field of integrative medicine (a combination of alternative and conventional medicine) said in an interview with Huffington post that "one of many other things you can do to improve your daily diet is indulge -- or cultivate -- a taste for bitter flavors" because bitter foods can help moderate your blood sugar levels and hunger.
Recent health concerns with high sugar levels have made me think twice about my sullen attitude towards this often unloved vegetable. Here's what I tried: Ampalaya Polvoron and Ampalaya Chips.
Polvoron is a sweet shortbread made of toasted flour, sugar and powdered milk. This version created by Nutri-Vron of Pampanga uses stevia sweetener instead of sugar and has powdered ampalaya for flavoring. Sounds really healthy, right?
It does taste a bit like your regular polvoron- powdery, milky and sweet but with a bitter aftertaste, not like the tartness of beer malt, though. More like the bitterness of aspirin, but only for a second.
Made with flour, spices, salt and ampalaya powder, these chips are produced by Ocean Fresh from Cavite. The foil pack kept the chips crunchy.
At first bite, I couldn't taste the ampalaya at all because the chips were heavily spiced with too much pepper. Then just before swallowing, that's when the taste receptors got activated by the ampalaya bitterrness.
After trying both snacks, I have decided that I would take healthy snacking at my own pace... a very sluggish pace. I would still like to try other ampalaya flavored snacks. Ampalaya ice cream, perhaps?