Karela – the mystery ingredient!

Karela stir-fry

As promised here is the follow-up to yesterday’s mystery ingredient post!

Incase you didn’t read the comment thread on that post I can reveal that the photo was of a Karela, also called bitter melon or bitter gourd. If like me you had never heard of these before, here is the link to the Wikipedia page where you’ll find out more than you ever need to know about this unusual veg.

Well done to Phil at Food, frankly for the first comment with the answer! (Check out this blog if you’re not already following!)

The excitement of buying a new and exotic food was quickly replaced by a feeling of “….and what on earth do I do with this then!?” and so I turned to the internet for inspiration. After a bit of google searching and some youtube video tutorials it was looking like I would make an Indian dish, but then I came across this Chinese recipe and decided it looked like the one to try. I wanted a recipe that would not add too many strong spices to the karela, so that I could taste the vegetable itself.

To prepare the karela I chopped the top and bottom off, before cutting down the middle and scooping out the seeds. I then cut it into slices and left in a bowl with plenty of salt for about 20 minutes – apparently this helps to draw out some of its bitterness. I”ll leave you to click the link if you want the ingredient list and directions, but the basic recipe was to stir-fry the karela in chilli, garlic, vinegar, sugar and soy sauce.

The verdict?…….well……the sauce was nice! Ok I have to admit to not liking the taste of the karela – a fact which I found disappointing although not entirely unexpected having seen all recipes and videos caveated with phrases like “this is not an ingredient for everyone” and “the karela really is an acquired taste”!!! It is so so so bitter! I’m really glad I tried it, but I think there’s no need to try it again for a long time!

I will be going back to the shop where I found this in search of more unusual ingredients very soon – watch this space for more mystery ingredient posts!!

14 thoughts on “Karela – the mystery ingredient!

  1. I grew up on these delicacy of a vegetable, my Mother turn it into a sweet and sour stir fry dish that would delight and tantalise the taste buds. Haven’t had it for ages so will be ringing my Mum in three, two, one – like now!

  2. Aha! So I’m not the only one who can’t stomach bitter gourd’s, erm, bitterness! Looks like a nice recipe though. Next time I’m caught between a rock and a bitter gourd (sorry!), I’ll give it a go.

  3. Growing up, my Mom used to make this with black bean sauce and some strips of pork. She even stuffed it with ground pork, kinda like stuffed mushrooms. It looks good but I can’t get pass the bitterness of this vegetable. Although it has some good health benefits. If you’re body is inflamed (i.e. acne breakouts, cold sore, etc.) this is a good veg to eat to help with that problem. Thanks for sharing.

    • Having read about all the health benefits I really wish I’d liked this more than I did! I agree with you though – I can’t get past the bitterness! Always good to discover new foods though so well worth it.

  4. I’ve yet to meet a food that I wouldn’t try. If you don’t try it, you might miss out on the most delicious things. Sure there might be a few duds along the way, but I bet the bitter melon makes you appreciate your favourite vegetables all the more.

    • I definitely agree that it’s fab to try new things, and I retry everything I don’t like every few years – some things I used to hate (like olives) are now some of my favourites! I have to caveat the Karela though and warn everyone it’s an acquired taste!

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