India’s love with bitter bites have been known since time immemorial, as even Ayurveda also happens to mention the goodness of eating bitter every day.
Bitters have always been an important part of Indian cuisine. Be it the neem leaves, karela, methi, amaranth or more, each meal sees one variety of bitter or the other. Though might not be comfortable on taste, but it’s mostly about bitter beginnings in most meal. India’s love with bitter bites have been known since time immemorial, as even Ayurveda also happens to mention the goodness of eating bitter every day. Amongst all the six tastes of Ayurveda, Bitter happens to occupy an important space as it helps to detox and clean the body. Good for balancing the Pitta and Kapha Doshas, bitters help to stimulate prana.
Even in ancient Indian writings there are innumerable text on bitters and Ksemakutuhalam the 1550 Sanskrit text book on diet and health actually refers to that bitter vegetable as “an emerald without and a coral within.” As bitter is known to have cleansing and metabolism effect, most regional food across the country sees the presence of bitter on the plate. And while we talk about bitter the quintessential Shukto and Neem begun from Bengali cuisine is difficult to ignore.
Shukto as the name come from Shuktani is a medley if veggies that sees everything in a bowl with bitter gourd being the most important ingredients. This so-called palate cleanser as the Portuguese were known to have it surely is an appetite booster. Be it the Karathe Kismuri (south Indian bitter gourd coconut curry) or the bharwa karela (stuffed bitter gourd) or aloo methi (potato with fenugreek leaves), in India flavour profile is seen as one of the important taste and flavour builder. Bitter in our cuisine is either treated separately like neem leaves fry, bitter gourd fry or as dish or at times mixed with others to balance the tone like amarnath pakoda and more. With added flavours bitterness play well and doesn’t even hit the taste profile. Imagine some fenugreek powder being sprinkled on boiled or tossed pumpkin. Even Camellia Panjabi’s book The Great Curries of India happen to mention that foods with bitter taste eliminate bacterial elements, purify the blood and are light on digestion.”
With bitters known to purify the body, they are light and cooling too at the same time. Digestive bitters or the alkaloidal bitters like Coffee and chocolate have always been favourites for years.
Here's the recipe of Karathe Kismuri, one of exciting bitter dish from down south that’s pretty easy to try.
• 2 bitter gourds
• 8 to 10 red dry chillies,
• 1 small ball of tamarind
• 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
• 3 tpsp coconut oil
• 4-5 cloves of garlic
• Salt to taste
• Coconut paste
• Turmeric powder
• Chop the bitter gourd in small pieces and add some salt and keep aside (this will help to reduce the bitterness)
• Then fry the bitter gourd in oil and keep aside
• Now blend the red dry chillies, tamarind and coriander seeds
• Now in the same oil add the garlic cloves and the coconut paste and cook for 5 mins
• Now add the spice blend and add the bitter gourd and give it a good mix.
• Add a little water cook till the bitter gourd gets soft.
• Once it’s ready serve it with some rice.