In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

A Classic Trinbagonian Caraili Recipe.

trinidad fry caraili recipe

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.

You’ll Need…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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  1. Patti
    May 21, 2022 / 12:14 am

    Thank you for the Karelia recipe, if I can find I want to try it. (Apparently it helps with Diabetes )

  2. Paul
    May 29, 2019 / 1:18 pm

    Hey Chris

    Love your recipes. Having married a guyanese woman & been to T’dad & Guyana several times, I’m always looking to perfect the recipes.
    I love karela, bitterness & all. One other way to reduce the bitterness is by adding a little sugar while frying it.
    Now you made me hungry so I have to go out & buy some to cook.

    • Paul
      May 29, 2019 / 4:16 pm

      Was going to say Karela also goes good with shrimp.

  3. Drcader
    January 12, 2019 / 3:58 pm

    My way-boil in salt water till translucent. Remove
    cool and let it drain. Fry it. Make a salad with cider
    vinegar and oyster sauce serve with sliced tomatoes
    And cucumber and raw onions.That is it.

  4. cynrok
    August 14, 2018 / 2:48 pm

    i just made an indian recipe for bitter melon that involved deep-frying the sliced karela without salting, and then mixing with raw onion, lime juice, culantro, chopped tomato, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. it was delicious and not very bitter! the long deep-frying apparently removes the bitterness.

  5. Hazel
    April 5, 2018 / 6:21 pm

    Doesn’t squeezing out the water from the caraili and cooking it for 25 mins till it start to turn brown destroy the nutrients in the caraili?
    I think we Caribbean people normally overcooked vegetables destroying all the goodness.

    • Karl
      April 5, 2019 / 11:56 pm

      Yes it does. By squeezing out the nutrients, you are essentially eating fillers.

      • admin
        April 6, 2019 / 8:40 am

        not so

  6. Anita
    March 27, 2018 / 1:17 am

    Hi Chris!
    I enjoy all ur recipes which makes you a fantabulous cook…
    Kerela bitter melon my mom cooked wen I was little n wen she left the dining area OUT GOES THRU DA WINDOW N IT WUD FALL ON PPL LOLZ …LOLZ ITS A blood cleanser my grandmother n mom told me!
    Bless U

  7. Debbie
    December 16, 2016 / 2:40 pm

    Hi Chris…my daughter lives on her own and she uses your recipes regularly. They’re just great.Thank you for HELPING ME. LOL

    • admin
      December 16, 2016 / 3:20 pm

      you’re most welcome.. and thanks for the kind support

  8. Sharon
    October 27, 2016 / 7:04 am

    Hi Chris gr8 recipe. My mom use to make caraili n potato fried together. It was delicious.

  9. Rose
    October 20, 2016 / 7:42 pm

    Hey Chris, love watching you cook with such joy and enthusiasm. Seems like you really enjoy cooking. I love love Caraili, yea it’s bitter but it’s an awesome dish. Also, I really appreciate the vegetarian dishes.

  10. Christine Hodge
    April 16, 2016 / 7:30 am

    Chris thanks. My grandma used to make this dish frequently. I loved eating it as a child. Even though I cook it now it never tastes like hers.

  11. Marjorie George
    December 9, 2015 / 12:57 am

    I remember my mom used to always make fried caraili every Friday night with small bakes.loved it.

  12. Marjorie George
    December 9, 2015 / 12:54 am

    I remember my mom used to always make fried caraili every Friday night with small bakes.

  13. Thanks mcv
    February 25, 2015 / 9:32 am

    I love this vegetable for its bitter taste. I cook it with lots of garlic and slightly crisp. Could eat it everyday.

  14. Kathy-Ann Charles
    June 9, 2014 / 4:42 am

    I personally do not like caraili, however, my husband bought it. I followed your recipe (and added some all purpose seasoning), to my great surprise it tasted great. I guess the trick is in the salting of the caraili before cooking.
    Thanks Chris.

  15. Helen
    May 20, 2014 / 7:56 pm

    Love it stuffed with tamarind, tomato and lots of onions, then steamed in coconut milk, to a moist finish. Delicious as a side dish to a veggie pelau.

  16. Dianne
    April 17, 2014 / 12:18 pm

    Grew up in Trinidad and I loved this, only recently my grandmother made it for me with saltfish, it is so good.
    In the US they call it bitter melon, really hard to find unless you have access to a specialty store.

  17. December 5, 2013 / 6:43 pm

    Disliked it as a child. Luvs it now. Has some cooked in the fridge right now. Liked it even more when it is burnt a little. Try it you may like it.

  18. Jan
    December 1, 2013 / 11:06 am

    I also never liked carailli as a child. Now, I actually grow it in my backyard. I make it exactly as you have it. I even converted someone who ate it without knowing what it was and they loved it. Keep up the good work Chris. All my overseas family have joined CaribbeanPot and they are total fans.

  19. Judith
    May 15, 2013 / 2:14 pm

    I am Chinese, so growing up I ate carailli stuffed with minced pork/shrimp, which was then steamed with an oyster and soy sauce gravy, or sauteed with meat in black beans. Only when I started working did I learn about "fried carailli" from co-workers. Any which way, I love carailli.

  20. Devika
    March 11, 2013 / 1:52 pm

    My grandmother would wash and ring the caraili using a kitchen towel. Then she would dry it in the sun. It would come out crispy. She did use salt fish. She just fried it with onion, garlic, and pepper. This got me thinking about curry same. You know "same." I am not show I am spelling it right. Looks like snap peas but a lot more flat.I have had "same" in donkey years yes.

    • Sandra
      September 1, 2013 / 12:30 pm

      Do you mean snow peas? They are pea pods that are flat and cook up crispy if not overcooked.

    • Jassie Singh
      October 27, 2013 / 12:20 am

      Saam Beans are available at Indian Grocery stores. You can get dried beans called “Val” beans as well, which can be soaked, cooked, and added to the curry, the way we would normally add green pigeon pes to Saam when they are in season.

  21. Erma
    September 30, 2012 / 7:31 pm

    To take the bitterness out of the caraili add extra salt and put in sun, this will take out a lot of the bitterness, also add black pepper and onions.. Try it that way and let me know.

    Your recipes are enjoyed by me alot as I am a tru tru Trini to the bone.


  22. Nedra
    April 25, 2012 / 9:44 am

    Yeah! BITTER!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely nothing has changed. I was recently diagnosed as a diabetic. Thank God I found the caplets!

  23. fgda
    March 31, 2012 / 3:07 pm

    Isn't it spelled Corilla?

  24. Yasmin Stonebanks
    January 10, 2012 / 4:02 pm

    Even as a child I loved Karela. When we lived in Jamaica, my mother would cut it in half, lenghwise and scoop out the seeds, and fill it with spicy minced meat…….then put it back in the oven and it was deliciious. My regret is that I never knew her recipe.

  25. November 15, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    Hi, i believe that i saw you visited my web site thus i got here to go back the desire?.I am trying to to find things to enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!
    .-= natural supplements for memory´s last 1 ..1 =-.

  26. trevor
    May 19, 2011 / 9:49 am

    just bring d rice and dahl now

  27. April 17, 2011 / 10:14 am

    Love, love, love this vegetable. I buy it every time it is available in the market.

  28. Jenny
    February 22, 2011 / 4:56 pm

    I hated Carilli as a child,until a Philipino friend of mine fried it with garlic and onions

  29. Maureen
    January 7, 2011 / 9:47 am

    Hey Chris, I also disliked caraili as a kid now I actually like it and prepare it the same as your recipe. Kudos to your dad.

  30. January 6, 2011 / 8:03 pm

    Isn't funny how our tastes mature as we get older?. Hated this as a kid but now i actually crave carilli. Mother-in law in law keeps me in good supply and makes it for me all the time.

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