Friday 24 November 2017

Bitter melon salad

Udo Erasmus

Makes 4 small servings

Bitter melon is one of those foods you either love or hate. It has a very bitter taste, hence the name, but it does grow on you if you can deal with the initial shock. It is extremely good for you. In Chinese medicine it’s referred to as ‘bitter cucumber’ and is used as a medicinal herb for treating all sorts of ailments, including diabetes and anaemia. You’ll find the best variety at Indian grocery stores, where it’s known as karela. While you’re there, also ask for methi, which is fenugreek (make sure you indicate fresh leaves, not the seeds). It looks a bit like a cross between coriander and clover. Both bitter melon and fenugreek are powerful blood purifiers and tonics. This particular salad has the added advantage of perking up the appetite. Once you acquire the taste for it, you’ll be hooked for life.

You will need

4 medium bitter melons, or

8 small Indian karela

2 bunches fresh fenugreek

80ml/50g Udo’s Oil

60ml/40g freshly squeezed

lemon juice

½ tsp sea salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black


1 red onion, finely diced

1 large ripe tomato, cut small

1 fresh green chilli, finely

chopped (optional)


Split the bitter melons in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a spoon. Slice very thinly into little arcs. Bring about one litre of water to a boil and blanch the melon slices for about two minutes, until tender-crisp. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and let cool. Keep the water boiling.

Remove and discard the coarse stems from the fenugreek and blanch the leaves in the same water for about 30 seconds. Drain and immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking completely. Drain thoroughly in a colander, squeezing out the excess water. Chop the fenugreek coarsely. (Don't throw out the cooking water -- drink it!) Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the bitter melon, fenugreek, onion, tomato and optional chilli and toss well. Serve in small bowls as a first course to your most adventurous friends.

If you prefer, steam the bitter melon rather than boiling it. This will preserve more of the nutrients. Afterward, use the steaming water to blanch the fenugreek. To find authentic ingredients, check out

Irish Independent

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