There are two types of Bitter Melon (also called Bitter Gourd) – a light green Chinese variety and a dark green Indian variety (Karela). Both melons have the same hardiness and bitter flavour. The only real difference is the appearance. Indian bitter gourds are narrower than the Chinese type, rather like a zucchini. They have irregular ridges and triangle-shaped “teeth” all over the surface of the skin, along with slightly ragged ridges. Chinese ones can grow more more than 25cm long and they have blunt ends. Broader than Indian gourds, they have light green skins dotted liberally with wart-like bumps rather than teeth. Both types have thick skins and white seeds.
Luckily, both types are available to us locally. I have used the Chinese type in this dish, but either variety could be used. The Indian varieties would be more traditional.
Bitter Melon Pachadi | Paharkkai Thayir Pachadi
2 medium bitter melon (karela)
pinch Indian chilli powder
2 cups yoghurt, beaten
1 tspn sugar (optional – to balance the bitter gourd)
0.25 tspn Indian brown mustard seeds
3 Tblspn ghee
sea salt to taste
Don’t peel the bitter gourd. Thinly slice it. Heat 1 Tblspn ghee in a kadhai or other pan and saute the bitter gourd slices with the chilli powder for about 7 minutes until it is brown and crispy. Add to the yoghurt with the salt and sugar (if using) and mix well. Use some slices of the bitter gourd for garnish.
Heat the remaining ghee to make a tadka. Add the mustard seeds to the ghee and allow to pop. Pour over the yoghurt and bitter gourd.
Serve with rice and a vegetable gravy dish.
recipe notes and alternatives
Usually the seeds are removed and the bitter gourd is chopped. In this recipe the seeds remain and it is sliced thinly.