Bitter Gourd with Potatoes

As a teenager, if there was one dish I absolutely dreaded to see on our dining table, it was the bitter gourd. I would do anything, even go without dinner, to save myself from eating this at dinner. Thankfully, it was customary in our family to have more than one dish for dinner so I had alternatives to choose from.

Saying that, I do understand they have amazing health benefits; especially for anyone who is diabetic as the bitterness helps reduce blood sugar levels. I am no medical expert, and I don’t intend to put myself out as one when I say this, however when my husband was first diagnosed with diabetes, his blood sugar level was sky rocket high. The elders in the family advised us to extract fresh juice from the bitter gourd every morning for him to have on an empty stomach every morning before breakfast. If you think the curry version is bitter, try the freshly extracted juice that is pulsed with all the fresh pulp.

I don’t know how he did it, but he is brave and was determined to fight this. He drank the juice every morning and even ate it as a side dish, with most meals for 6 months. His blood sugar levels came down to normal and he was able to maintain it by taking the juice whenever he felt the need. He no longer drinks the juice, but I try to make the bitter gourd as a curry for him once every two weeks, or whenever I find some fresh ones calling out for me at the grocery store.

There’s lots of ways to make this vegetable, but I find it is easier to enjoy it when it is mixed with another vegetable or meat. This version has lots of potatoes with the bitter gourd, that can be replaced with any other vegetable of your choice.

The potatoes in this dish help soak up some of the bitterness of the bitter gourd, and the tomatoes add a slight zing in the flavours. I have grown to love the bitter gourd now, albeit it wasn’t love at first sight and it has taken a long time to grow on me.

BITTER GOURD WITH POTATOES
ALOO KARELA

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Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp cooking oil of your choice (I used mustard oil)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1.5 cups Bitter Gourd or Karelas, chopped roughly
3 cups potatoes, cut into half inch cubes
Salt to taste
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
A handful of Cilantro/ fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Method:

Halve them lengthways and scoop out the inside flesh and seeds using a spoon
Halve them lengthways and scoop out the inside flesh and seeds using a spoon
The bitterness is in the spikes - if you want them less bitter, peel them off.
The bitterness is in the spikes – if you want them less bitter, peel the spikey bits off.
These green chillies are 'heat generators' in the curry. Use as much or as little as you need.
These green chillies are the ‘heat generators’ in the dish. Use as much or as little as you need.

1. Heat oil in a pot. If using mustard oil, it should be slightly smoking, before you add the onions. Reduce the heat to medium, and saute the onions until they have softened. Add the cumin seeds and the green chillies.

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The bitter gourd brightens up a little as it cooks with the onions

2. Add the bitter gourd and continue to saute until the gourd starts to change colour a little. I find they brighten up a little in colour as they cook.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and cover the pot at this point, reducing the heat, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes.

The tomatoes look refreshingly fresh in the midst of the bitter gourd
The tomatoes look refreshingly fresh amidst the bitter gourd

4. Add the spices followed by the potatotes. Simmer in a covered pot for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked.

Stirring in the potatoes, the seasoning and spices.
Stirring in the potatoes, the seasoning and spices.

5. Sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top and serve hot with fresh flat breads, some yogurt/raita and a salad.

Karela aloo

Store left overs in a sealed container in the fridge for upto 3 days. I like to use the leftovers and stir fry them with some rice the next day to make an instant rice pulao that can be enjoyed with salad and yogurt.

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5 thoughts on “Bitter Gourd with Potatoes

  1. It is a funny vegetable isn’t it? I mean there are lots of foods out there with a bitter edge, but bitter gourd is REALLY bitter. I haven’t explored it within the confines of the Indian kitchen (yet), but I’m quite familiar with it’s use in Chinese cooking. It’s an acquired taste I suppose, and honestly I’m still growing into it a little, but it does have a certain charm. I do think that the mellow sweetness of tomato and the creamy richness of the yogurt probably do wonders.

    Thanks for sharing an under-appreciated veggie! 🙂

    1. Thank you Sean, and yes it is definitely an under-appreciated veggie that often calls out for me when I see people walk past it in the grocery store. It is definitely starting to grow on me a little now. The bitter gourd that we use in the Indian cooking is slightly different than the Asian bitter gourd. This one has the strong bitter spikes on it, instead of the bumpy light coloured versions used in Chinese cooking. I have used the Chinese ones for Indian cooking too, but the taste is a little different.

  2. This looks amazing! I’ve never seen a bitter gourd and it was interesting to read about it. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of new foods to try!

    1. Thanks Marlene. Yes, bitter gourds are a tough ingredient to get used to. They are a bit like Marmite, you either love it or you don’t – but you must try them to find out 😉

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