A bitter taste profile is prevalent in many of India’s curries and it is highly coveted. Bitter Gourd has a crunchy husk like a green pepper and a watery texture like cucumber. But its weedy, alkaline taste is unlike any other fruit or vegetable. To my taste buds, bitter Gourd is nearly inedible raw and I used to completely avoid it in the grocery store.
Bitter Gourd have always been considered as super food in India, long before these nutrient power-bag became a hit in the West. They have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain Vitamins A, C, B1 to B3,Phosphorus and good dietary fiber.
I have seen my mother in law drying up the spicy marinated bitter guard in the sun and storing it. And she shallow fry it for lunch. I was very hesitant to try it at first but after my trial, I realized that the combination of heavy spices perfectly complimented the bitter gourd, accentuating its unmistakable astringent flavor and it was not that bad at all.
Later during my visit to the grocery, I went for this veggie though I was quiet unsure what to make with it. And yes, google came for my help. I went through few of South Indian blogs and saw most of them used a large amount of tamarind to their bitter guard curry/gravy. and I decided to do the same.
Young immature bitter gourds are the best for cooking: the skin is bright green in color, the flesh inside is white, and the seeds are small and tender. The vegetable is ridged, and the skin is pebbly in texture. Do not use mature bitter gourds as they tend to be more bitter. The bitterness can be tamed down by mixing up the chopped bitter guard with lemon juice, salt , rest for 15 mins and strain the excess water.
The recipe calls for a good amount of ginger, tamarind along with some spices and simmer the gravy in a low flame until it reaches the desired texture and temper it . The curry texture can be thin or thick depending on your consistency. The key here, use coconut oil only.
For those who haven’t had bitter gourd yet, remember it is a staple in countless Indian kitchen and I highly recommend it though it is not everyone’s cup of tea . Enjoy cooking!!
- 1 medium Bitter Gourd Chopped
- 4 Tbsp Coconut oil
- A Pinch of Fenugreek seed
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped Ginger
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped Garlic
- 1/2 Cup finely chopped Onion
- 2 Green Chillies Chopped
- 1 Large chopped Tomato
- Few springs of Curry Leaves
- 1 Tbsp Chilly Powder
- 1 Tbsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder
- A big lemon size tamarind soaked in 2 cups of water
- 1 Tbsp grated Jaggery or sugar
- Salt as required
- For Tempering
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
- 1 Tbsp Mustard Seeds
- A generous pinch of Asafoetida
- 4 Dried Red chilles
- 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
- Few Springs of curry leaves
- 1 Tbsp Ginger chopped
- 1/2 Tbsp Chopped Garlic
- 6-8 Shallots Sliced
- In a bowl, mix together - bottle gourd, 2 Tbsp lemon juice and salt, let it rest for 15 mins and then squeeze out all water from it. . It helps to reduce the bitterness of the bottle gourd.
- In an wide earthen pot, heat coconut oil, add fenugreek seeds and cook for a minute.
- Add in the chopped ginger and fry until golden brown.
- Next garlic, Green Chilies and sliced onion. Saute for 5-6 mins and you will see nice brown coloration on the onion.
- Its now time for the spices - Chilli powders & turmeric powder . Keep sauteing until the raw smell of the spices disappears.
- Put in the tomatoes with 1/2 cup water, salt , few springs of curry leaves and cook for few mins and the oil will start appearing on the surface.
- So far so good !! Now our sweet and tangy tamarind time. Squeeze the tamarind in the and pour the water in to the spice mix, sugar or jaggery and bring to boil.
- Add in the bitter gourd and reduce the flame. Simmer for 10-15 mins depending on the consistency you desire. I like it bit thick, so I took a total of 15 mins. Switch off the flame.
- Next step is to temper,
- Heat oil in pan, splutter mustard seeds, dried green chillies, fennel seeds, asafoetida, curry leaves.
- Then add ginger & garlic, saute for a minute.
- Followed by Shallots and fry until golden brown.
- Pour it into our gravy and cover it quickly and let it rest for half an hour.