Who could look at this lovely thing and not want to dig in?
Most people I imagine. Not me. A while back I saw this on an episode of Chopped and added it to my list of things I should try some day. When I saw it fresh on the shelf during my visit to my local Indian market I knew it must be mine. At the same time I picked up a bag of dried bitter gourd to go along side of it. I had no idea how to use either one but that is what the internet is for.
As it turns out bitter gourd, or melon, has a long list of reputed health benefits. Who knew? After checking in to it I wasn’t so sure the dried product was going to be much good for tasting but that is what I am here for. Everything I read led me to believe I was in for some serious bitter trying it raw. I was expecting a looney tunes like alum reaction.
Time for some Alum (silly embedding disabled video)
And off we go. I sliced it up and it looked just like any other melons or squashes, filled with a seedy white pith that was not likely to have much taste to it.
I sliced up some of the fresh stuff and popped a piece into my mouth. Wow, bitter is the only thing that jumps out. It was no Tom and Jerry mouth pucker but it was certainly lip smackingly bitter. I broke it up and tried just the green outer part and that was where all the flavor came from. If I really paid attention I could pick up some minor green pepper like flavor but it was mostly just bitter. The white pith was very bland and not quite as bitter. Next I tried a dried piece on it’s own and that was mistake. It had almost all the bitter and none of the moisture of the fresh melon. I needed some water to choke it down.
I knew full well the dried one would be mostly inedible raw as it is frequently ground up or steeped prior to use. I fried up a little of both in some olive oil, salt and pepper. Just a few minutes in the heat with some seasonings made all the difference in the world. The fresh one was still bitter but had a much better flavor, I could really detect some green pepper notes and a mild squash flavor. Even the dried one softened up a bit and tasted better.
I can totally see myself using this in soups and stews to add a bitter note and some fresh flavors without the sometimes overwhelming flavor of green peppers. I would not recommend anyone eating it fresh but as an ingredient this is a “Try It” for sure.