CFH during WFH
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CFH during WFH

Roasting the Bitterness out of a Bitter Gourd?

My experiments with Karelā (Bitter Gourd) continue.

Bitter Gourds are awesome! They are healthy, nutritious and super easy to cook. In a previous post I shared my adventures with cooking this vegetable. No matter how awesome, this vegetable has few takers: They are bitter!

Karelā: Bitterness equals Nutrition

I addressed karelā’s bitterness last time:

  • It is an acquired taste. Once you acquire it, you are hooked!
  • Stir-frying can treat the bitterness right out of the vegetable. But it can also drain its nutrients. Also: stir-frying demands too much oil for my liking.

And those facts still stand: the bitterness of a bitter gourd is directly proportional to the amount of nutrients it has to offer. If it is not feeling bitter, then you are not getting the good stuff. And heat of any kind will reduce the bitterness in this vegetable.

But then I asked myself:

Is stir-frying the only way to heat this vegetable out of its bitterness?

If the goal is to cook the bitterness out of the bitter gourd, can we do it better than to stir-fry it with all that oil? Is there a better way? Well, last night I tried my hand at roasting some bitter gourd in the oven.

Roasting Karelā (aka Bitter Gourd)

I have roasted broccoli and cauliflower before. And they turn up better than when I stir fry them — lesser charring, lesser oily. More importantly, the cook on the vegetable was a lot more even out of the oven heat, than in the pan.

So, the idea was simple (and it worked!):

Slice up the bitter gourd into thin slices. Lay them out on a baking tray and roast it in an oven.

Let me break down the steps.

Step 1: Pre-heat the oven and prep the baking tray

Pre-heat the oven to 415 degree F. Lay out a baking sheet on a baking tray, and drizzle some oil on the sheet. I probably put too much (see below) — but that was just the first batch. The made do with half the oil (from the picture below) in the 2nd batch.

Drizzling the baking tray with olive oil. You can probably do with a lot less.

Step 2: Clean and Chop up the Karelā/Bitter Gourd

I like cleaning my veggies in a colander — it is just effective. But more important than how, it is important that we do clean. After cleaning, assemble the gourds on a cutting board, and trim off the ends (see the top-right corner in the picture below). After that, just chop up the gourds into thin slices.

far left: Wash the karelā in a colander; middle: Karelā before the actual chop; top-right: Trim the ends before the chop; bottom-right: Neat, thin slices of karelā.

Step 3: Spice and (optionally) Oil in a bowl

Now take the thin slices of karelā in a bowl, and spice and oil it. The oil is likely optional; but I have not experimented without it, yet. Also: It was a very light drizzle: just enough to bind the spices on the vegetable pieces.

And here are the spices I used (again, as light or generous as you want it):

  • Red chili Power or Cayenne Pepper Powder.
  • Turmeric Powder
  • Salt
  • Aamchoor (aka Mango Powder) — this balances against the heat of the cayenne really well, but this is entirely optional.
left: Spiced and lightly Oiled; right: only Spiced

Step 4: Layout the slices on the baking tray

Line up the slices next to each other. Feel free to pack the slices close to each other. Karelā has a lot of water content, and in the oven heat, the slices will shrink in size as they cook.

They do look gorgeous like that. I always like the “pre-bake, all lined up” shot 😅

Step 5: 25 minutes in the oven at 415degs

At the 15 minute mark.

I tried three different batches in the oven for different times: 20 mins, 25 mins and 30 mins. 25 mins was the optimal time. 20 mins was not terrible, but I thought that some parts were undercooked/baked (I could have been imagining things). 15 mins was certainly too less. The batch that was in for 30 mins was reduced chips — too much for my liking.

25 mins, and dinner is served.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served @ the 25minute mark.

My wife was singing my praises last night — that is a raaaaare occurrence. In the picture above, notice the lack of sheen: that is because it is almost devoid of oil (and water). They were not sticky, or wet or oily to touch. The bitterness was nearly gone. And notice how the slices still retain some of the original color: green and white.

More importantly: the vegetable was not oily, was spiced and cooked uniformly. I have never managed this with a stir fry.

Baking vegetables this way also has another upside: once you set the oven timer, you do not need to wait at the stove stirring the veggies every 2 minutes.

Rest and relax till the timer rings. ⏲

We had three tray fulls! 😋

Do you have other ideas on how to cook this vegetable? Let me know. In the meanwhile, enjoy this fascinating vegetable!




“Cooking from home during WFH” is a series of adventures with cooking when it could no longer be avoided during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooking as a course of last resort, if you will.

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Vijay Krishna Palepu

researcher • software • program analysis . debugging • UCI • blogger • software visualizations • Microsoft • Views my own •

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