Bittergourd is one of those vegetables that you either like or don't like. Its bitterness is certainly not in its favor. But its inherent goodness in terms of nutrition makes it hard to ignore it. It's a wonderful source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, C. It is rich in magnesium, folic acid, iron, beta-carotenes, calcium and potassium.
In addition, the extract of bittergourd is said to contain two factors that give it a blood sugar lowering ability: a steroidal saponin called charantin and P-insulin (also called vegetable insulin). Its extreme bitterness however makes it hard to consume unless mixed with sweetening agents such as sugar or jaggery during the cooking process. But by doing this, it in effect loses its therapeutic value.
I've tried many traditional ways to reduce the bitterness of this vegetable including soaking it in buttermilk, in salt water, etc, but these don't have too much effect, at least when I attempt them. This has forced me to experiment in other ways to make the vegetable more palatable. Along the way, I've come to embrace its flavor, bitterness and all -- it's not that hard to get used to.
We came across a lovely bittergourd curry when dining out couple of years ago; however, the dish was oozing with oil. They must've deep-fried the bittergourd slices before sauting with other ingredients. I tried to mimic the dish and it came out almost similar, though the spiciness and calories were much less than theirs, and I didn't add any sweetening agent. But deep-frying is something I avoid as much as possible, keeping it for rare occasions. So I tried it out in a different way which turned out not so bad after all, and certainly healthier.
This is how I made it:
I chopped two medium-sized bittergourds, slicing them into thin sticks of about two inches in length. I heated my flat-bottomed pan and coated it with a drop or two of oil. I tumbled in the bittergourd pieces and slowly roasted them on low flame, till they browned considerably around the edges. This can take around 20 minutes.
While waiting for that to be done, I chopped up two large tomatoes and two large onions into long thin slivers. Onions release a sweet flavor when fried gently and slowly, and tomatoes add sourness; hence I've used abundant amounts of both to mask some of the bitterness of the gourd.
Once the bittergourd were roasted to my satisfaction, I placed it aside in a plate. In the same pan, I then heated two spoons of oil (for those who don't need to measure their fat intake, a more generous portion can be added for this particular dish). I sauted the onion slivers on low flame till they acquired a brownish tinge along their edges. I then added the bittergourd slices and fried some more, maybe another five to ten minutes.
I then added the spices: about quarter spoon of turmeric powder, half a teaspoon of chilli powder, half a teaspoon of coriander powder, requisite salt. I stirred this for a bit, then added the tomatoes. I let this simmer, constantly stirring, for about ten minutes or so, until the tomatoes sort of dissolved, and then turned off the stove and covered the dish. I let this rest for couple of hours or so. All the flavors get absorbed, including most of the bitterness, and it actually tastes very good. It is great addition to a lunchbox meal with chapattis.Of course, those who don't need to worry about adding sugar, can do so and enhance the flavor even more.
This is my entry to theFIC: Red and Greenevent hosted by Neha of Easy N Tasty Recipes.Food In Color, a monthly culinary event, is the brainchild of Harini of Tongueticklers.
Updated May 12th: For a colorful roundup of FIC, clickhere.