The beginning of hardship is like the first taste of bitter food -it seems for a moment unbearable; yet, if there is nothing else to satisfy our hunger, we take another bite and find it possible to go on. -George Eliot
Bitter melon, otherwise known as bitter gourd or bitter squash is a vegetable that is amazingly good for you. However, it comes with a small caveat. It’s also an acquired taste. As you can imagine, there is good reason for the word ‘bitter’ in its name. But there are also plenty of good reasons to make this vegetable a part of your diet. It’s a source of many beneficial antioxidants and vitamins and helps combat a number of illnesses.
Having been raised in a Gujurati household, I’m no stranger to this vegetable which is known as karela in my native Gujarati as well as in Hindi. I’m grateful for having had a substantial exposure to it while growing up as now I can boast that it’s one my favourite vegetables. And I’m hoping the same will be the case for my children too.The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of this super food is by juicing. Requiring a bit more effort, my favourite is this simple bitter melon and onion curry.
Bitter Melon and Onion Curry (Karela nu Shak)
- 150 g sliced bitter melon (this is about one medium)
- 130 g diced onion (this is about one small)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil (This may seem like a lot but bitter melon curry requires a generous amount of oil for cooking)
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds
- ½ tsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp turmeric (haldi)
- ¼ tsp garam masala
- pinch of red pepper (or to taste)
- Heat oil and add mustard seeds and methi seeds. When they begin to crackle, add the bitter melon and the onions. Stir to coat in oil and cover. Cook for a total of 20 minutes on low-medium heat, stirring in between.
- Enjoy as a side dish or as a light lunch with roti.
Note 1: You can use more onion and less bitter melon should you wish to offset the taste of the bitter melon.
Note 2: You can also reduce the bitterness by adding a bit of salt to the sliced uncooked bitter melon and allowing it to sit for 15-20 minutes. Then squeeze the slices using a cheese cloth to remove some of the juices.
Note 3: I always use young, tender bitter melon whose seeds do not need to be removed. If the one you have has larger and tougher seeds, then cut the bitter melon lengthwise, scoop the seeds out and discard them, before slicing the vegetable.