As a food blogger, I am starting to look at vegetables in the grocery store in a completely new way. Before, I used to just pass by unfamiliar food in the store. I thought, “What am I going to do with that?” or, “Wow, I can’t even imagine how that would taste!” But I decided to step outside my comfort zone and start buying one new or unfamiliar vegetable at least once a week. And that’s how I stumbled onto Indian bitter melon, otherwise known as karela. I thought it looked like a zucchini with reptile skin and I was totally fascinated.
I brought home 3 of them and did some research online. The recipes I found seemed too complicated or called for spices that I didn’t already have in my kitchen. So I decided to make up a recipe. I cut off the tops of the melons and scooped out the insides to make boats. I figured I could chop up the third I had taken off the top, stir fry them with onions and spices, and then stuff the bitter melons and bake them up. Kind of like zucchini boats.
But my plan was derailed. I started the stir fry but when I tasted it, it was way way way too bitter! I realized I couldn’t possibly stuff the boats and have the entire outside be that bitter tasting stuff. I did add some sugar to balance out the flavor, but it would have been too overwhelming to use all 3 melons. So instead, I cut up a head of cauliflower and added it to the stir fry. I threw out the boats because the flavor was just too strong.
My verdict? The small amount of bitter melon in the stir fry added an interesting background flavor and contrasted nicely with the sweet cauliflower. Will I buy it again? Probably not. There are so many other interesting vegetables in the grocery store that I could experiment with! Honestly, I think this curry (or is it a stir fry? I’m not really sure) would taste just as good without the bitter melon. So the veggie I wanted to be the star of the recipe ended up being a background player. That’s why it’s in parentheses — the recipe could totally do without it.
However, I did eat that whole bowl myself (that’s an entire head of cauliflower) so it couldn’t have been that bad. Whether or not you try this recipe, I encourage you to go out and buy something new or unexpected this week and flex your own culinary muscles.