Here is the thing about bitter gourd. It does what it says on the bottle – it is very, very bitter! However, there are a lot of health benefits that’ll turn the table in favour of including it in your recipes.
Bitter gourd or bitter melon is a rich source of vital vitamins and minerals and is recommended in the natural treatment of type 2 diabetes. They are rich in iron. They have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain vitamins A, C, B1 to B3, Phosphorus and good dietary fibre.
Enough of preaching. Let me share an easy-to-make take on the traditional Pavakka Theeyal recipe that’ll help you cook a healthy, yet tasty dish with bitter gourd (Karela).
Theeyal is a traditional Kerala delicacy made with roasted coconut, spices and tamarind. When made with bitter gourd, this becomes a treat for your taste buds. The mellow, yet distinct bitterness adds depth to the tangy spice flavours.
In a traditional feast (Sadya), Pavakka Theeyal plays a great supporting role to other lead dishes like sambhar, avial, pulisseri, and thoran. For a daily meal, it can hold the fort on its own – just serve it with some steaming rice and a poppadum!
Wash bitter gourds. Cut them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and slice them into small pieces.
Add some salt, and rub it well into the chopped bitter gourd, and set aside. Amount of salt doesn't matter. After 15 minutes (in the meantime, execute steps 3 & 4) wash the bitter gourd to get rid of the salt, and drain it. This is an old school technique to reduce the bitterness of the bitter gourd. 🙂 Tip: Please don't forget to wash this salt off the bitter gourd before you add it into the cooking pan.
Heat a pan, and fry the grated coconut on medium heat.
When it starts turning brown, add coriander seeds and fry for another minute. If you don't have coriander seeds, use a tablespoon coriander powder.
Let it cool. Blitz this in a blender adding a little water to make a smooth, thick paste.
Heat a pan, add some oil and fry the chopped shallots.
Add bitter gourd and mix well.
Now add chili powder,salt and the ground mixture, and stir together.
Add two cups of water and mix well. Soak the tamarind (I used 1 tablespoon tamarind paste) in water, mix well and add to this. Close the lid and bring to boil on medium heat. It'll take about 10 minutes.
Once it starts boiling, open the lid, and let it reduce to a required consistency on high flame while stirring occasionally. Turn off after 5 minutes and transfer to a serving bowl.
Heat some oil (use coconut oil for an authentic taste), splutter some mustard seeds. Sautxe9 with some chopped shallots and curry leaves. Use this for garnishing the dish.
Serve hot with rice and poppadums.
Check out other Kerala Sadya (traditional feast) recipes here: