Fermented black beans are commonly available in Chinatown markets. Thought to have originated in the Hunan province in the southwest of China, fermented black beans are now used throughout Southern China. They are probably best known to Americans as the black bean sauces in Cantonese cooking.
Shell and devein the shrimps and set aside. Cut the bitter melon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith. Further cut the halves into quarters lengthwise and slice into pieces of about one inch squares. Mince and shred the garlic and ginger, and set aside. Mince the fermented black beans and set aside.
For those who prefer a spicier dish, Hunan-style, red chili is normally added. If you decide to use the chili chop it roughly so as to color the finish dish with specks of red.
If you prefer a less bitter taste you can par-boil the bitter melon in boiling salt water for about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool before stir-frying. Be sure to shorten the stir-frying time since the bitter melon will already be partially cooked. Of course if you are like me, I love bitterness and prefer to just stir-fry the bitter melon as is.
To finish the dish heat vegetable oil in a wok on high heat until it just begins to smoke. Put the shrimps, salt and white pepper in and stir-fry until it just begins to turn pink, about three minutes. Scoop the shrimps out into a bowl and set aside. Leave about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok and put garlic and ginger in the wok. Stir-fry for a minute or so until you can smell the aroma. Add the bitter melon, Shaoxing wine, water and fermented black beans. Cover and let cook for about two minutes. Uncover and stir the bitter melon, then cover again and continue to cook for another three minutes or so. If the mixture is too dry, add another splash of water to prevent it from burning. The bitter melon is cooked when it turns a brownish-green shade. Take a piece of bitter melon out and taste for doneness if you wish. The texture should be a soft and crunchy but not mushy. Return the shrimps to the wok and add the red chili. Stir-fry for another minute or so and you are ready to serve.