Bitter melon (or karela if you’re from Orissa) is one of the most reviled and possibly one of the strangest looking vegetables. It’s always fascinated me and I was determined to try it, especially since I found this recipe on the rather odd (but very interesting) Mahanandi blog, written by an Indian cook from Houston.
The recipe combines sweet, sour and bitter flavors via jaggery, tamarind and karela. It’s one of those Bengali sorts of recipes that involves steaming the vegetables in a deglazed pan of flavored oil, then adding the other ingredients and spices to finish it off to a sort of vegetable stew.
Karela is covered with zillions of strange little wart-like bumps. I was relieved to learn that you peel these off (along with the skin) before slicing it into bite-sized pieces.
The caramel-ish sweetness of the unrefined jaggery combines wonderfully with the sour tamarind (though I wish the tamarind I get was sourer) and the karela, which is not as bitter as most people say (or maybe I like bitter).
Full Mahanandi recipe here.