We are not born with a love of bitter. The taste for coffee, dark chocolate, bitter greens develops over time, if at all. Taste buds get seasoned and crave complex flavors. For most of us bitter emerges after sweet, savory and sour.
The bold, beautiful bitter gourd falls squarely in this category and where there is pain, there has to be a good reason for it. Chockfull of essential nutrients ranging from iron, magnesium and vitamin A to potassium and vitamin C. It is also an excellent source of dietary fiber and contains twice the calcium of spinach, beta-carotene of broccoli, and the potassium of a banana. It lowers bad cholesterol, maintains blood sugar levels, cures hangovers and cleanses the liver.
Salting and allowing to marinate for a few hours draws out some of that bitterness. If you do it, make sure to rinse thoroughly and squeeze out the excess liquid. The salt will get absorbed so be mindful when adding more. I sometimes skip this step and go straight to cooking with onions to add sweetness and a tart squeeze of lemon to round out it out.
Another point to note is that the gourd and onions should be very finely, evenly sliced. This ensures thorough cooking and the crunchiness that is characteristic of this delicious dish.
4 bitter gourds, very thinly sliced
1 large onion, very thinly sliced
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp. chili powder
1 large lemon
salt to taste
- Rinse out the bitter gourd. Slit down the length and scoop out the seeds and pulp within. Slice thinly.
- If you are going to marinate in salt, place in a bowl, sprinkle generously and leave overnight if possible or at least for 3 hours. Once done, rinse and squeeze water out.
- Sprinkle with chili powder and salt if needed and put aside.
- Heat a small wok or a deep dish and add enough oil for frying.
- When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion slices and fry till they are golden brown. Remove onto a plate covered with a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
- In the same dish, add the sliced gourd and fry till crisp. Remove to another, similar plate.
- In a serving bowl, mix the onions and the bitter gourd. Sprinkle with garam masala and a generous squeeze of lemon juice and it is ready to serve with basmati rice.