New ingredient: 5 things I learned about keralla

KerallaIt doesn’t happen often, but on Saturday I found an ingredient at my local No Frills that is not in the Food Lover’s Companion. The odd-looking veggie pictured above was piled high at the entrance to the produce section and labelled Indian Keralla. Intrigued, I bought two and took them home to investigate. After all, at 99 cents a pound, you can’t inject excitement into a rainy Saturday any less expensively!

Here’s what I learned about Indian Keralla:

  1. Don’t take a bite of the raw veggie — it’s bitter and nasty!
  2. The English names for this veggie are Bitter Melon (which is in the Food Lover’s Companion), Bitter Gourd, Warty Melon or Balsam Pear.
  3. There is a Chinese variety of bitter melon that is similar but milder in flavour and it has a yellow hue.
  4. Keralla should be blanched or salted before being used in recipes to curb its bitterness.
  5. To use, slice the melon in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and discard. Slice the green outer layer and sprinkle with salt and drain in a colander. Rinse and pat dry and then add to curries and stir fries that feature strong flavours.

Have you used Keralla in your cooking? If so, I’d love to hear some of your tips!


16 Responses to New ingredient: 5 things I learned about keralla

  1. Rosa says:

    I’ve never tasted that veggies. I’ve seen it on our markets, but never knew whether or not I should buy it…



  2. Barb says:

    I saw it in the grocery store last week as well. I picked one up to check it out and then put it back wondering the what, where, who, why and how muches about it. Now I know a few. Thanks Dana!

  3. Diva says:

    I’ve heard of bitter melon, but was unaware that it was also known as keralla. I’ve never cooked with it myself but it sure looks neat!

  4. I’ve never heard of keralla.

  5. Fascinating. I’ve heard of bitter melon, but not keralla. What’s it taste like?

    If you’re looking for cooking tips, I’m sure Monica Bhide could help. I don’t think there’s an Asian ingredient she hasn’t researched.

  6. I’ve never heard of keralla. I know the vegetable pictured above as Okinawain bitter melon. It is used the same as Chinese bitter melon. Both contain high quantities of natural quinine and thus the bitter flavor—definitely an adult vegetable. I like it a lot. The first bite is bitter, but so much so that it seems to turn-off the bitter taste buds on the tongue, and all the other flavors in the dish are heightened.

    Only the flesh is eaten. The seeds and white pith are discarded. For stir-fry dishes, the melon is cut lengthwise and the seeds scraped out with a spoon. For stuffing, the melon is cut into sections and the seeds removed by pushing through the section with your finger.

    I only cook them a couple of ways—Bitter Melon Braised with Beef and Bitter Melon Stuffed With Pork—and since the recipes aren’t French, I don’t have an online link to them. If anyone is interested, I could post them somewhere.

  7. cheryl says:

    Um, wow, I think I’d run away from that thing if I came across it in a dark alley.

  8. danamccauley says:

    Thanks for your tips Peter!

    I’m not sure if the store had the correct name posted but that’s what the sign said.

  9. Natashya says:

    I have had keralla before and it was terrible! I generally love extreme flavours but no amount of salting or blanching made it edible.

  10. danamccauley says:

    Natashya – tell us more! Where did you have it and how was it prepared?

  11. Shiyam says:

    It is a beautiful Vegetable of Indian Origin. It is also called bitter gourd. Karella is biteer no doubt and it is an acquired taste. It has many curative properties for diabetics, blood pressure etc…

    To go about preparing Karella there are many ways.For beginers slit it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon and you can stuff vegetables and lentils bake it.(The filling could be of your liking)

    Do let me know if you need more Ideas.

    Happy Cooking!!!

  12. Sarah says:

    I’ve grown up with bittermelon, or ampalaya, as it’s called by Filipinos. My mom usually used it in pinakbet, a stew with eggplant, pumpkin, spinach, sometimes okra (though I asked her to keep it out for me), string beans in a shrimp paste base. In Japan, it goes by the name of goya and is the main ingredient in the Okinawan dish of champuru, which usually uses eggs, tofu and sliced pork.

    When I was little, my mom would salt and rinse it several times to take away most of the bitter flavor for us kids, but now as an adult, I’ve come to enjoy the bitter taste.

    *Note to those unfamiliar with it: Not all bittermelons are made equal, some are more bitter than others. I don’t know if the Indian keralla is more or less bitter, but it might be worth it to give it a few tries.

  13. danamccauley says:

    Shiyam & Sarah – many thanks!

  14. […] those of you who were  intrigued by the keralla (aka bitter melon) I featured earlier this week in my blog, here are two recipes from Chinese cooking expert and A la […]

  15. yygall says:

    While i’m not too familiar with the Indian variety, the Chinese/Japanese variety is regularly featured in my diet. According to Chinese medicine, bitter melon is a good detoxing agent, and is good for getting rid of excessive heat in the body (heat causes ulcers, bad breath, etc).
    Bitter melon is definitely an acquired taste. I use it in a variety of dishes, from omelettes to soup. Just halve the melon lengthwise, remove the ends, pith and seeds, then slice thinly. Blanch or salt the melon, then squeeze out all the excess water. Saute the melon briefly in some oil, then add beaten eggs, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook as you would with a normal omelette. I’ve found that bitter melon tastes least bitter when cooked this way.
    Bitter melon in soup would probably be too much for anyone who is not used to the taste. The first taste tends to be one full of bitterness, but subsequent mouthfuls have an almost sweet aftertaste.
    White bitter melon is regularly used in mixed juices, usually blended with apple or pear for a cool, detoxing drink.

  16. danamccauley says:

    YYGall – this is great info! Thanks so much for sharing.

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