The awful thing I'm trying to get my husband to eat.

Indian Bitter Melon (link to original recipe)

I’m determined to find a recipe for karela, or bitter melon, that my husband will enjoy. Although he’s Indian, he HATES bitter melon. It's definitely an acquired taste but I actually like it. Once you get past the bitterness it has a slightly grassy-nutty flavor. In other words, it tastes healthy, which it is. VERY. In fact there is a national bitter melon council advocating the many health benefits of this warty looking vegetable. Aside from all that good stuff, I found a recipe that seems to be the most palatable thus far. The fact that he said "hmmm, not bad" is just short of a miracle. It calls for the use of amchur powder (green mango powder, which is very sour) but discovered I was out so I substituted tamarind concentrate. I've now made it with both tamarind and amchur powder and find I like the tamarind the best. I think amchur has a slight chemical taste to it, to me. Just my opinion, though!I I also used some ground coriander and fennel seed. Here's the recipe:


4 - 6 small Indian karela (4-6"), lightly peeled, hollowed and debittered.

  • 2 TB oil (plus more for frying)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1 large white onion or sweet onion, chopped fine
  • ½ to 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp hing (asafoteda powder)
  • ½ tsp haldi (turmeric)
  • 1 TB besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 TB ginger-garlic paste (equal parts of garlic and ginger pureed with a little water)
  • 1 tsp minced fresh green chili
  • ½ tsp ground dhania (coriander)
  • pinch of ground sanf (ground fennel seed)
  • ½ tsp mirch (chili powder)
  • the chopped insides of the karela and peels
  • 1 TB amchur powder or tamarind concentrate
  • 2 TB chopped coriander leaves (plus more for garnish)
  • fresh squeezed lime juice for garnish, to taste

SALTING THE KARELA (removing the bitterness)

Wash and slightly peel off the bumpy skin so that the karelas are smooth for easy frying. Reserve peel. Make a length-wise slit down one side of the karela but don’t cut in half. Gently pry open so you can get a small spoon inside the cavity and scrape out all the seeds and pulp. Reserve with peels.
Place the karela and seeds/peels in a shallow sauce pan. Liberally sprinkle the insides and outsides of the karela and the seeds/peels with salt. Cover with water and simmer on very low heat for about ½ an hour. You’re not trying to cook just using the heat to help remove the bitterness. Repeat one more time with salt and water, then rinse, dry off the karela with a paper towel and squeeze out water from seeds and peels. Chop the seeds/peels finely and set aside. They will be used in the masala later.

MAKING THE MASALA (stuffing mixture)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and, when hot,  add the cumin seeds. When they start to sputter and pop add the onion and stir. Add the salt and sautee for a minute. Add the hing and sautee until the onions become slightly brown, stirring frequently. Then add the turmeric and sautee for a minute. Then add the besan and sautee for a few minutes to cook the besan. Then add the ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chili and sautee a minute, then add chili powder, coriander, fennel and chopped reserved karela seeds/peels and sautee for a few minutes. The mixture should look nice and brown at this point. Now add the amchur powder or tamarind concentrate and sautee for one minute. Lastly stir in the coriander leaves and remove mixture from heat.  Set aside to cool before stuffing the karela.


With a spoon or your fingers stuff the karelas with enough filling so that you can still close the seam. Take some kitchen string and wrap around the karela to close. Don’t worry about tying, it won’t come off once your start frying. After you’ve filled all the karelas add about 2-3 TB of oil (or mustard oil if you have it) to a large pan and heat to med. Add the karelas and begin frying, turning every few minutes until they have browned on all sides. Cover with a lid between each turn. This helps cook them thoroughly. Remove from heat and remove stings. Squeeze a little lime juice over the top and garnish with more chopped cilantro. Serve with plain basmati rice or as a side dish with your favorite Indian meal.

Stuffed Karela, Keema Mattar (ground beef & peas), Chana Masala (chickpeas) and Bhel Puri (puffed rice snack with tomatoes, onions, cilantro and a sweet tamarind sauce called imli)

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