Try These 5 Tips To Remove Or Reduce The Bitterness Of Karela
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Bitter gourd is a nutritious vegetable rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but its intense bitterness often tends to put people off. It is low in calories but high in fibre, vitamins such as C, A, and K, and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium. Bitter gourd is known for its potential to help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. It aids digestion, stimulates appetite, and may also help relieve constipation.

Bitterness in bitter gourd primarily comes from compounds known as cucurbitacins, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds. They are a type of defence mechanism for the plant, helping it deter pests and herbivores from eating it.

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These compounds vary in concentration depending on the variety of bitter gourd and its maturity. Older or overripe bitter gourds tend to be more bitter. While the bitterness can be challenging, it can be managed through proper preparation and cooking methods such as salting, de-seeding, blanching, or marinating. 

Choosing a fresh and firm bitter gourd may be a good idea. Some varieties of bitter gourd are naturally less bitter and experimenting with different types if they are available can be helpful. Usually, older bitter gourds tend to be more bitter. Remember that overcooking bitter gourd  can make it mushy and more bitter. Add ingredients such as sugar, jaggery, or coconut milk to balance the bitterness. 

These techniques not only reduce bitterness but also enhance its flavour and make it more enjoyable in various dishes. Try these simple hacks, experiment with them and enjoy the goodness of karela.

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Using Salt

The salt method is one of the most common techniques used to reduce bitterness in bitter gourd. Wash the bitter gourd thoroughly under running water. Trim the ends and scrape any rough patches on the skin, if necessary. Depending on the recipe, slice the bitter gourd into rounds or chop it into desired pieces. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the sliced or chopped bitter gourd. Massage the salt into the bitter gourd pieces to ensure they are coated evenly.Let the salted bitter gourd sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.

During this time, the salt draws out some of the bitter juices from the bitter gourd. After 20 minutes, you'll notice that the bitter gourd has released liquid. Squeeze the bitter gourd pieces firmly to extract this bitter juice. Rinse the squeezed bitter gourd under cold running water to remove excess salt and bitterness. Proceed to cook the prepared bitter gourd as per your recipe. Cooking further helps in reducing bitterness.

Removing The Seeds

The seeds and pith of bitter gourd are often the most bitter parts. Removing them can significantly reduce bitterness. Slice the bitter gourd lengthwise. Use a spoon or knife to scrape out the seeds and pith from each half. Place the de-seeded bitter gourd slices or pieces in a bowl of salted water. Let it soak for about 15 to 20 minutes.

After soaking, rinse the bitter gourd under cold running water to remove salt and any residual bitterness. Use the de-seeded and soaked bitter gourd in your cooking.

Use The Blanching Method

Blanching bitter gourd briefly in boiling water also helps to reduce bitterness while retaining its crunchiness. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the bitter gourd slices or pieces to the boiling water. Blanch for about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the slices. Quickly transfer the blanched bitter gourd to a bowl of ice-cold water. This stops the cooking process and helps retain the bright green colour. Drain the blanched bitter gourd and gently squeeze out excess water. Use the blanched bitter gourd in stir-fries, curries, or salads as desired.

Marinate The Karela

Marinating bitter gourd with ingredients like salt, yoghurt, lemon juice, or vinegar can help reduce bitterness and enhance flavour. Prepare the bitter gourd by slicing or chopping it. Place the bitter gourd pieces in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt, yoghurt, lemon juice, or vinegar to the bitter gourd. Mix it well and let it marinate for about 15 to 20 minutes. After this, rinse the bitter gourd under cold water to remove excess salt or marination ingredients. Proceed to cook the bitter gourd in your chosen recipe.

Use Interesting Cooking Techniques To Mask Bitterness

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Once you have prepared the bitter gourd using one of the above methods, you can incorporate it into various dishes to further minimise the perception of bitterness. Cooking bitter gourd with onions, tomatoes, garlic, and spices in a stir-fry can help balance its bitterness with other flavours. 

Bitter gourd works well in Indian-style curries where it can absorb the flavours of spices and other ingredients. Deep-frying or pan-frying bitter gourd until it turns crispy like karela chips, can mellow out its bitterness and add a crunchy texture. Mixing bitter gourd with other vegetables or meats in dishes like stuffed bitter gourd or mixed vegetable curries can help dilute its bitterness.