Do you have things you refused to eat as a kid, but find that as an adult you have a new appreciation for them? There’s quite a few dishes that would make my list, but (and I really tried) caraili is something I could never like. Caraili, bitter melon or as it’s known in India… karela, just isn’t for me. I tried what my mom and friends on the facebook fan page suggested to remove the overly bitter taste and though it did make a huge difference, it still reminded me of a hot Guinness. With the majority of kids on the islands disliking this dish for as long as time itself, who’s carrying on the tradition of cooking and enjoy this? BTW, see the bottom of this page to read a little about the nutritional benefits for bitter melon (caraili).
For those of you who like this dish, but never got around to making it yourself or if you’re someone who like to try new and different things, here’s a quick recipe. And according to my dad, a delicious one. You be the judge!
*You’ll notice that I posted this recipe under “Fish” as well as “Vegetarian”. To make it fully vegetarian, you can leave out the salted cod pieces but remember to taste for salt at the end. Additionally, you can add a little curry powder to it for another layer of flavor.
2 average size Caraili (sliced thin)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion sliced
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/4 hot pepper (I used habanero)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (I prefer to use olive oil)
1/4 cup of shredded salt fish (salted cod)
*salt for cooking (most likely you will not need any)
There’s a little prep time needed for this dish to help remove some of the bitter taste. Cut off the ends and discard, Then cut in half and using your fingers push down the inside to remove the seeds etc. An easy way is to make a cut down the middle (length) and use a spoon to scoop out the inside(refer to pics below). Then slice as thin as you can.
Discard everything you removed from the inside and start slicing (crosswise) as thin as you can. To help remove the bitter taste, place the slices on a dish and sprinkle with the salt. Allow that to sit for at least 30 minutes (I left mine for 1 hour). This will draw out most of the bitterness.
Now using your hands or a tea towel, squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid will come out. The next step is to rinse with cool water, squeeze again and repeat this step one more time. Try to get as much water/liquid out as possible.
While this was sitting salted, I prepared my salted cod. I placed it in a bowl with hot water and allowed it to soak until the water cooled. This step is to remove some of the salt and to add some moisture back to the salted cod as the salting process dries the fish out. I then rinse with cool water, squeeze dry and shred.
In a heavy pan heat the oil on medium heat, then add the garlic, onion and hot pepper. Allow this to cook for a few minutes – until the edges start browning. Now add the shredded salted cod… lower the heat a bit so it doesn’t stick/burn and cook for about 5 minutes. You want to get that rich salt fish flavor. Remember if you going vegetarian, you’ll skip this part. Now it’s time to add the sliced caraili and stir.
With the heat on medium/low, cook this with the pot uncovered for about 25 minutes or until you start seeing the edges start going brown (refer to the pic below). Since we salted this early as we prepped it and though we did rinse it off, the salted cod we add should have added enough salt to the entire dish. however, feel free to taste and add salt if required. I didn’t need any. It may start to stick to the bottom of the pan while cooking, so do take time ever few minutes to stir. If you find that it’s overly dry and not browning, add another teaspoon of oil to the pot.
Caraili are very low in calories but dense with precious nutrients. It is an excellent source of vitamins B1, B2, and B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorus, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is rich in iron, contains twice the beta-carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, and twice the potassium of a banana.
Caraili or bitter melon, contains a unique phyto-constituent that has been confirmed to have a hypoglycemic effect called charantin. There is also another insulin-like compound known as polypeptide P which have been suggested as insulin replacement in some diabetic patients.
Do you have a caraili memory from your childhood days? Leave me your comments below, as I’d love to know how many of you have a dislike for this as I do. And don’t forget to check out the latest cooking videos and join us on Facebook (see images on the upper right side of this page)