I never see too many people put this vegetable in their shopping basket. And I am not surprised because this gourd is really bitter. But if cooked the right way, it can be eaten without contorting your face in any grotesque way.
Bitter gourds are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana. It is an excellent blood purifier and I am attracted to everything natural and good for health.
'Karela’ as we call them locally look like tiny hedgehogs. The bumpy outer layer almost looks like melted wax that is dripping from a candle. I remember my mom stuffing them with cooked minced meat and deep frying them. Just so that we eat it, she would try and extract most of the bitterness out by scrapping out the entire bumpy exterior, scooping out the seeds and pulp from the inside. Next she would simmer the shells in boiling water for a few minutes before stuffing them with minced meat. Each shell was secured with a string and then deep fried. This entire process sure did take away the bitterness but alongwith the bitterness, the nutrients had also vanished. It tasted good, a lil fried crisp bitterness of the outer shell overpowered by the tangy sweet mince inside. We loved it. Mom has now gotten brave. She stuffs the gourds just the way they are, just knocks off the seeds, stuffs the meat and pan fries them. And it still tastes great.
For the vegetable preparation, I like to slice the bitter gourd really thin and stir fry them with onion a few spices and palm sugar. The onion and palm sugar mellow down the bitterness just leaving it as a mild undertone. Serve this up with hot chapattis.
On that bitter note, I leave you with the recipe
Bitter-Gourd Stir Fry
250 gms bitter gourd
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1” piece of ginger, chopped
1 tbsp palm or regular sugar
1 tbsp vinegar or lime juice
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Cut the bitter gourd lengthwise into halves and scoop out seeds, if any. Then cut into thin slices. Heat the oil in a wok. When hot drop the cumin seeds. When they stop spluttering add the onion and ginger. When a light golden colour drop in the chilli and garam masala powders. Stir well and then add the karela. Keep stirring over high flame. Add the salt, vinegar, palm sugar and continue stirring for 3 mins. Then reduce the flame and cover and cook for 2 mins. Uncover and stir again on high flame, till the vegetable looks a shade lighter. Do not overcook or the vegetable will release its juices. They should be crisp and firm. Take it off the heat and serve with hot chappatis.