But it also happens to be a favorite of mine since moving to Sri Lanka, and I wanted to share some of it's positives (if you hadn't known already).
Key ingredient: Bitter Gourd
Other names: African Cucumber, Ampalaya, Balsam Pear, Balsam-Apple, Balsambirne, Balsamine, Balsamo, Bitter Apple, Bitter Cucumber, Bitter Gourd, Bittergurke, Carilla Fruit, Carilla Gourd, Cerasee, Chinli-Chih, Concombre Africain, Courge Amère, Cundeamor,
Appearance: Similar in size to green cucumbers with gourd-like bumps and seeds that are white when unripe, red when ripe
Native: Commonly found in Asian countries and South America
Health benefits: Used for various stomach and intestinal disorders including gastrointestinal (GI) upset, ulcers, colitis, constipation, and intestinal worms. It is also used for diabetes (note - bitter melon contains a chemical that acts like insulin to help reduce blood sugar levels), kidney stones, fever, a skin condition called psoriasis, and liver disease; to start menstruation; and as supportive treatment for people with HIV/AIDS. Topically, bitter melon is used for deep skin infections (abscesses) and wounds.
My favorite recipe - Eva's Karawila Sambal Oelek
Guard this with your life! No. I'm kidding. Up until a few years ago I had never eaten bitter gourd, let alone cooked it. And now, I'm about to impart some of what I've learnt, or should I say, my experiments in the kitchen. But, there's nothing to fear, this is truly a tasty dish. I've even had people asking me to make this for them. Yes, it's that good!
This recipe makes about 4 servings
- 1 large bitter gourd (alternatively 2 small bitter gourds)
- 1 tomato
- 1 large red onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- cooking oil (sufficient for light frying)
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
- 1 teaspoon sambal oelek chilli paste (adjust to taste)
- 1 tablespoon curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons light soya sauce
- pinch of lime juice
- Slice the bitter gourd into thin pieces and soak in a bowl of water containing tumeric and salt for 10 minutes to remove bitterness. Drain and pat dry. Heat oil and lightly shallow fry bitter gourd until brown (or slightly burnt if you like a deeper flavor). Drain and keep to the side.
- Finely slice onion length ways. Crush garlic. Finely chop tomato into very small pieces. Place onion, garlic and curry leaves into a new frypan with a teaspoon of oil. Add the light soya sauce and lightly saute till brown and smoky.
- Add tomatoes, sambal oelek chilli paste, pepper and a pinch of salt to the onion fry and continue to saute for 3 minutes. Add the bitter gourd and mix delicately.
- Remove from heat and place into serving dish. Add a pinch of lime juice for extra flavor.