Bitter melon, or karela, has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine. This ancient wisdom is now being backed up by science, with several studies showing its positive effects on blood sugar due to a chemical that acts much like insulin. Not only that, it’s been shown to aid digestion, fight inflammation and promote cleansing and detoxing.
Basically, it’s healthy!
The Chinese variety of bitter melon is mellower in terms of its pungency, and that’s what I used in this recipe. After tasting a bite of this dish, my husband commented how it’s not as bitter as he expected. While writing this, I realized that it’s probably because I used the Chinese bitter melon and not the Indian one, which he is accustomed to since he grew up in the motherland! So, if using Chinese bitter melon, shorten or skip the salting part if you are like my husband and have a fondness for that sharp taste which that very step is used to eradicate.
Another way to remove any bitterness is to cut and freeze the bitter melons in advance. No need to salt them!
The combination of bitter melon and ground beef is very popular in Pakistan – and for good reason! Pair it with rotis for the ultimate Pakistani comfort food.
Pakistani Keema Kareley | Ground Beef and Bitter Melon
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef washed and rinsed
- 2-3 small tomatoes chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger crushed
- 4-5 garlic cloves crushed
- 1-2 green chillies chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp plain whole milk yogurt
- 2 medium sized Chinese or Indian* bitter melons seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces (about 1 lb)
- 2 tsp salt for prepping the bitter melon
- vegetable oil for frying
- juice of a quarter of a lemon optional
- coriander leaves chopped (for garnish)
First, sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of salt into a bowl with the bitter melon, mix and set aside. This helps take out some of the bitter flavor.
Now you're ready to cook! Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute until lightly brown. If the contents are sticking to the bottom of your pan, add a bit of water to caramelize them.
Add the ground beef and cook until it is browned, using your spatula to break up the beef into small pieces to ensure no lumps.
Add garlic, ginger, tomatoes and green chillies and continue cooking for a few minutes. Add the spices and salt as well as the yogurt. Lower the heat, cover, and let this mixture cook.
Meanwhile, wash the salt off of the bitter melon by rinsing through a strainer. Squeeze or blot the bitter mellon with a tissue to remove excess water. Heat some vegetable oil and fry the bitter melon for about 5 minutes, or until it is cooked and crisp around the edges.
Add the fried bitter melon to the beef mixture, being careful not to add any excess oil. Lower the heat to the lowest setting, cover and let this mixture simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the sprinkle chopped coriander and squeeze the lemon (if using) over the dish.
Serve with roti, rice, bread or anything your heart desires!
Recipe Notes*If using the Indian variety, you will need to scrape the bitter melons, slit them, and then deseed them.