It’s not every day that a food blogger tells you NOT to make one of her recipes, but the truth is, if you’ve never tried bitter melon before, there’s a 99% chance you’re not going to like this dish. This recipe is for those of us who grew up eating karela (bitter melon) and enjoy its strange flavor. It’s an acquired taste – very acquired – so for those who decide to make this Karela stir-fry having never tried it before… you’ve been warned.
There’s a reason this fruit is named bitter melon. When I was a kid, I thought that I was being punished when my parents would ask me to eat karela. As an adult, I find it’s bitterness intriguing, so unpalatable that with every bite, I seriously question my taste for enjoying something so ridiculously bitter. I wonder if other bitter melon fans feel the same way. Maybe we’ve learned to like it because of it’s supposed health benefits?
I realize this is a strange analogy, but I’m going to compare bitter melon to beer.
I hated beer the first time I tried it, and truthfully, I still do… but, most people eventually learn to love it. So, if you hate karela now, maybe one day you’ll wake up and decide that you’re in the mood for something extremely bitter – or maybe not. An interesting little fact – in China, bitter melon is sometimes used in place of hops in beer. So, maybe the beer analogy isn’t so strange after all 😉
About Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is known by many names: karela, goya, bitter gourd, bitter apple, wild cucumber, balsam apple, balsam pear, kugua.
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, bitter melon is “used as food and as medicine to treat diabetes, cancer, viral infections, and immune disorders.” Some studies have shown that the properties in bitter melon indicate anticancer and antiviral effects. Still, I do not suggest trying to heal yourself without first talking to a doctor. There can also be adverse side effects to eating bitter melon – do not eat this fruit if you are pregnant or might be expecting (read more about that here). Additionally, take caution with ripe bitter melon (the one on the right) as the red arils are reportedly toxic (source). I avoid eating the ripe yellow bitter melon altogether, although there are some people who do eat it.
You don’t have to peel the karela when you make it, but doing so helps remove some of the bitterness. I love pairing bitter melon with caramelized onions and spices. Even though it’s bitter, the combination makes for a taste that I relish.
Have you tried karela before? Let us know your thoughts about this fruit in the comments below.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the bitter melon.
- Slice the bitter melon into ¼ inch slices and remove as many seeds as possible (the rest will be easy to remove once cooked).
- Add 3 tablespoons of avocado oil to a pan over medium heat. Then add the bitter melon slices and stir-fry for 5 minutes.
- Add the spices and mix well. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes, checking on it halfway to make sure the vegetable isn’t burning.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of avocado oil and the onion, give the pan a good stir then reduce the heat to low-medium heat.
- Put the cover back on and cook for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the onions have caramelized.