The inspiration for this recipe came from one of my students who was presenting a lecture demonstration on a diet for diabetics using bitter gourd. Bitter gourd is popularly known to be good for diabetes (it isn’t!) which is why she used it, but she sprinkled sugar all over it! I pointed out that this would not be suitable for diabetics to which she responded cheerfully that bitter gourd by itself is, well, bitter, and the sugar would make it palatable. I had to lower her marks as she had missed the point totally, but I came up with an interesting idea for a Sweet and Sour Bitter Gourd Curry.
When I went through the recipes my mother had written for me, I found a great number of bitter gourd recipes. One of these was sour bitter gourd curry. I never cared much for it, but I now thought of making it sweet and sour. I added jaggery to my mother’s recipe and also rasam powder to make it interesting. The added sweetness results in the most ‘palatable’ dish you can get that is also sour and bitter.
Bitter gourd, for all its reputation as a nutritious vegetable, contributes only a small amount of vitamin C and carotenoids. This dish derives its energy value from the jaggery and the oil used in the preparation. It is most definitely unsuitable in a diet for diabetics.
- ½ kg small/short Bitter Gourd
- 1 Onion, diced
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
- 1 T Tamarind Concentrate or 1 lime-sized ball of Tamarind
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Chilli Powder
- 2 tsp Rasam Powder
- 1/3 C-1/2 C Jaggery (molasses)
- ¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
- 2 T Vegetable Oil
- 1 ½ tsp Salt, or to taste plus salt to make salted water
- 1 ½ C Water
- Soak the tamarind in warm water for 30 minutes. Extract juice and strain to arrive at 1 ½ cups. If using concentrate, mix in 1 ½ cups of water.
- Cut the bitter gourd vertically into 2 pieces. Remove seeds.
- Soak the bitter gourd in salted water for 30 minutes. Remove and drain.
- Boil the tamarind juice with 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric powder, and chilli powder.
- Add the bitter gourd. When it resumes boiling, lower heat. Cook till tender.
- Remove from heat. Add the jaggery pieces and stir to dissolve.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick kadai or wok.
- Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the onion and fry till translucent.
- Add the bitter gourd along with the tamarind water and stir. Adjust salt.
- Keeping it on low heat, add the rasam powder and stir. When gravy is thick, remove from heat.
- Add the curry leaves and serve.
- Traditionally bitter gourd is sliced, whether it is short or long. But since the bitter gourd used is a short variety, I have cut it vertically to minimise nutrient loss.
- Keep the mixture on low heat once the rasam powder is added; otherwise, the jaggery will stick to the pan.
- Rasam powder is commercially available. You can use any brand. If it is not available, you can use sambar powder, but use only half the amount as it is very spicy.
- I use Kashmiri chilli powder for its rich appearance and mild flavour. Use only half the quantity if you are using any other chilli powder.