What do I do with this? Karela

Desi Karela / Bitter Gourd

This post should be subtitled, “Are you trying to poison me? My lips are going numb!”

I picked the strangest looking vegetable from BJ Supermarket, in the Gerrard India Bazaar. Its bumpy, bright green flesh was intriguing. The sign said ‘Desi Karela’ – I had never heard of it before, so I wrote it down.

A quick Google resulted in many pictures of half-naked girls. Oh wait, I mistakenly typed ‘Desi Kerala’ (Kerala being a state in India).

A quick correction brought me to the vegetable I was looking for… and it turned out to be Bitter Gourd. I had read about bitter gourd before – sometimes in recipes with no mention of the fact that this gourd is, in fact, evil. Other times, the author would curse the evil within, with comments such as “Why would anyone ever want to eat this?!”. Although frightened, I refused to give up and I found a recipe that sounded like the perfect way to introduce myself to Desi Karela.

Curried Bitter Gourd

I chose this recipe from Foodskaypes, because the mix of bitter gourd with coconut and tamarind sounded really tasty and different from the dishes I usually make. In case you are planning to click that link and read the recipe – no, I didn’t buy a fresh coconut and grate it for my dish. We aren’t used to fresh coconut here, so I bought the packaged (unsweetened) stuff. No doubt it isn’t as good as fresh, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The dish smelled amazing as it was cooking. It was a fun assortment of spices (yay!), and I crossed my fingers that the karela wasn’t too bitter. Then I tasted the sauce. It was so bitter that my heart immediately sank, and I scolded myself for not making a backup dish. I knew J would NOT like this.

We sat down to eat, and I took my first bite. Yowza, that gourd is bitter! Bite two wasn’t so bad, and by bite three I noticed a flavour beyond the bitter that intrigued me, something I’m sure I haven’t tasted anywhere else. I looked up at J, who had also taken about three bites. “That’s about all I can do. My lips are going numb.” That was that. I finished his plate, and gave myself a little bit more, and he went to the fridge for some pitas and veggies.

I should mention that the recipe itself was great, and I’ll be trying it again with some other, less evil vegetable.

I don’t think I’ll be buying desi karela again, but I’m really happy I tried it once. The leftovers are still in my fridge, waiting for me to finish them. I’m kind of afraid of what it will taste like – you know how evil is when given time to collude.

Sorry, J. I swear I didn’t try to poison you!

2 thoughts on “What do I do with this? Karela”

  1. haha.. I hate karela!! for exactly it’s bitterness.. GAH!! everything that comes close to it tastes bitter :OO.. Anyway if you remove the seeds before cooking, it’s less bitter.. my mom makes a dish where she desseds it, slices and fries it and then tosses it in caramelised jaggery.. I must say, it’s still bitter but less so and masked by the sweet sugar…

  2. wow! I’m glad I read this first. 🙂 I’ve eyeballed these guys a couple of times.

    I’m prone to picking up strange fruits and vegetables, too. That’s how I learned about the yumminess of ugli fruit and how pomegranates are a pain to prepare. 🙂

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