An Unusual Side: Bitter Gourd Fry (Pavakkai Fry)

I am posting this recipe slightly on accident, as I hadn’t been planning on making this vegetable fry anytime soon. Then I decided to clean my fridge. A scary task.  Once I geared up in my scuba suit I dove into the refrigerator and when I reached the vegetable drawer I found these two bitter melons hiding in a plastic bag. I had completely forgotten that I had bought and stored them away the last time I had gone to our local Indian grocery store to stock up on some Indian veggies. (Don’t worry-they weren’t too old). And violà-that leads you to today’s recipe-a simple, spicy fry of this unique vegetable/fruit.

Prior to my mother in-law coming to visit I had never tasted or cooked this spiky specimen and was intrigued by it’s strange exterior and name. Often called “bitter gourd” or “bitter melon” I learned that this tropical fruit (though don’t be confused-it is not at all “fruity” and is cooked and eaten as a vegetable) has a taste that indeed lives up to its name. The skin and flesh (you can eat both when cooked) are indeed very bitter, though if marinated with spices and cooked long enough they do lose some of their pungency. It is an acquired taste and you may love it or hate it (I find I am somewhere in-between) but you will never know unless you try! This is a great beginner recipe passed along from my mother in-law for a simple side dish. Serve with rice and any other gravy/curry and perhaps a dollop of yogurt (I find yogurt also helps to cut the bitterness).

“Supposedly” (and I say supposedly here because I am the furthest thing from a doctor) there are claims that this pod fruit provides many health benefits, especially for those with diabetes. I cannot support such claims but a simple google search of “bitter gourd and health benefits” will lead you to many articles and studies.

So the next time you are in the produce section of your grocery store or find yourself in a specialty Asian supermarket pick up two of these green guys for a unique side dish.

 

 

 

 

Bitter Gourd Fry (Pavakkai Fry)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A spicy and slightly crispy fry of the Indian bitter gourd
Author:
Recipe type: Sides
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 Indian bitter gourds (also called bitter melons). Sliced as thin as possible and well washed
  • 2 TBS yogurt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp rice flour
  • salt to taste
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Slice the bitter gourds as thinly as possible (discard ends) and wash well. Place slices in a bowl and add yogurt, turmeric powder, chili powder and salt. Mix well (by hand works best). When the slices are evenly coated with the spices, add the rice flour and mix again to coat. Let sit for 10-15 min
  2. In a skillet heated over medium heat add as many slices as you can fit without crowding. Sprinkle lightly with water and cook for 1-2 min (I cover with a lid to speed up the cooking)-this is to slightly soften and pre-cook the gourd before frying
  3. Transfer slices to a griddle/tava/flat frying pan also heated over medium-high heat and drizzle with a little oil. Fry for about 8-10 minutes, flipping at least once. Gourds are done when they have browned and crisped on both sides
  4. Drain fried slices on a paper towel lined plate. The oil will look very yellow due to the turmeric
  5. Repeat process in batches-depending on your pan sizes you may need to do 2-3 batches
  6. Serve and enjoy as a side to any meal!
Notes
*The thinner you slice your gourd the less bitterness each bite will have

*You can "push" out the center flesh/seeds from the gourd if you do not like-this is a question of personal preference

*A little goes a long way-if you don't feel like cooking all of the gourd slices in batches simply make one batch and refrigerate the rest of the marinated pieces for another day. I find one person eats about 4-5 slices per serving

 

  1. Slice the bitter gourds as thinly as possible (discard ends) and wash well. Place slices in a bowl and add yogurt, turmeric powder, chili powder and salt. Mix well (by hand works best). When the slices are evenly coated with the spices, add the rice flour and mix again to coat. Let sit for 10-15 min2. In a skillet heated over medium heat add as many slices as you can fit without crowding. Sprinkle lightly with water and cook for 1-2 min (I cover with a lid to speed up the cooking)-this is to slightly soften and pre-cook the gourd before frying

3. Transfer slices to a griddle/tava/flat frying pan also heated over medium-high heat and drizzle with a little oil. Fry for about 8-10 minutes, flipping at least once. Gourds are done when they have browned and crisped on both sides

3. Drain on a paper towel. Don’t worry-the oil will look yellow due to the turmeric.


4. Repeat process in batches-depending on your pan sizes you may need to do 2-3 batches
5. Serve and enjoy as a side to any meal!