Bitter Melon (aka Karela) Sure Is
When I go to parties, or talk to someone about my blog (where I cook quirky fruits or meats, in case you’re new) one of the questions they often ask is, “is there anything that was totally disgusting that you couldn’t eat?” Until now, I’ve said, “Not really.” However, Indian Bitter Melon, or Karela, although attractive…
…forced my tongue to spit it out immediately.
When I read about how to prepare it, I began to have a mental image of hundreds of thousands of Indian mothers sitting across tables from their kids in a standoff over these pretty little warty veggies that look like acne ridden pickles (not to be confused with the Chinese version which is more like a faded dehydrated English cucumber). Many recipes included warnings about the extremely bitter taste, saying that it’s something you need to get used to, but that it’s worth it for the health benefits, which seem to be awe inspiring. I’ll type out how this website describes them, just in case you’re too lazy to open a new window, because I want to help all of those mothers present their arguments:
“This odd-looking fruit is rich in iron, vitamins, phosphorous and fiber. It has more beta carotene than broccoli, more calcium than spinach and more potassium than banana. Not only that, it can fight off tumor and malaria, and treat dyspepsia and constipation. Although requiring more studies and scientific proof, bitter melon may be used to inhibit cancer and HIV infection.
In some parts of the world, bitter melon is used to treat chickenpox, measles, herpes simplex, dysentery, fever, painful menstruation, burns, scabies and other skin problems.”
Is this the miracle food that can cure all disease? It might be, but I still won’t eat it again, unless I can somehow cut my tongue out or eat it intravenously. Maybe I could choke it down if I had herpes or scabies, but luckily I’m in pretty good shape right now.
Here’s how I prepared it, which was based on a recipe I found where a mother said her young daughter was willing to eat it deep fried. I might write back to that mother suggesting she take her daughter for a psychological evaluation.
Fried Indian Bitter Melon
(serves 3, if they’ll eat it. To save money, reduce by 10x and you’ll still make enough for everyone)
- 4-5 Indian karela, sliced into rounds
- 6Tbsp vegetable oil
- 3Tbsp curry powder
Directions: Soak sliced karela in heavily salted water for at least one hour to help remove bitterness (I did this, but it sure didn’t work. What would it have tated like if I hadn’t??). Rinse. Heat oil over med-high heat for a few minutes. Add karela and cook approx 8 minutes, until it begins to look crispy, stirring it a few times. Add curry powder.
I think you’ve guessed already. It burned my tongue with bitterness that lingered even after I’d spit it out, almost like how a hot pepper burns for a long time afterward. I take comfort in the fact that probably even that brief exposure to the karela passed some nutrition through to my bloodstream. My friend said it tasted like rust. My husband didn’t eat more than one piece, but he didn’t spit it out, which shocked me. He must have a higher tolerance for suffering than I thought (no comments from the peanut gallery please).
Rating: 4 gags, which I see as a challenge now. If I ever see it on an Indian restaurant menu I’ll order it for sure to see whether I like it when it’s prepared properly, but I’m quite confident I’ll still be adding it to my no-eat list, along with hard boiled eggs and yellow mustard, both of which could be desserts by comparison.