Bitter Melon Chips with Coconut
BHONA KARELA NARIYAL
-Recipe from Yamuna mataji
Srila Prabhupada was so fond of bitter melons that he requested them in
one form or another nearly every day lunch. Like most Bengalis, he
regarded the vegetable as both a digestive aid and appetite stimulator.
Because they are not always easily available, he requested his personal
cook to keep a stock of dehydrated sliced bitter melons on hand for
world wide traveling. To this day, I try to keep a jar of dried bitter
melon slices in the larder, used primarily for this recipe. Dried
bitter melon is less pungent than fresh, and deep-fried, it is far
crunchier. The wafers fry in seconds, and even for newcomers, are quite
Bitter melons, also
called bitter gourds or balsam pears, are an important vegetable in
eastern and southern cuisines. They are spiny melons, 4-8 inches (10-20
cm) long, thickish in the middle and pointed at both ends. Always look
for small melons, picked immature, that are dark green in color and
heavy for their size. In Bengal the bitter melons are fried in mustard
or peanut oil until dark brown and crisp. To tone down the bitterness,
the chips are coated with powdered fresh coconut and seasonings. Serve
4-6 chips per person as as appetizer-relish with a dab of pickle or
Preparation and salting time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
4 small or medium-sized bitter melons (about ½ pound/230 g)
4 table spoons (60 ml) mustard or peanut oil
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) turmeric
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) paprika or cayenne pepper
¼ cup (25 g) grated fresh or dried coconut
½ table spoon (7 ml) lemon or lime juice
Trim the ends off the bitter melons and slice crosswise into
rounds ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Place them in a bowl, sprinkle liberally
with salt and place a weight on them. Set aside for at least ½ hour.
Rinse under running water, drain, and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a 7-9 inch (17.5-22.5 cm) frying pan over
moderate heat. (If using mustard oil, allow it to reach the smoking
point before adding the vegetables. This makes the pungent oil docile).
When it is hot, add the bitter melon rounds and stir-fry, cooking on
both sides, until crisp and reddish-brown, from 10-15 minutes. Remove
the pan from the heat, add the remaining ingredients and ¼ teaspoon (1
ml) salt, and toss well. Serve hot or at room temperature.