Kalounji has come from humble beginnings; from being fried over many wood fired chulhas to gracing many tables with its spicy bitter presence. Today I’m taking it to new heights – let’s serve it as an appetizer instead of a side dish.
Generally, caraili is eaten with a meal, hardly as an appetizer. But if you are hosting a dinner party or having a little gathering, you can challenge your guest to be adventurous, if they are willing, to try your baked Kalounji. It could turn out to be the talk of the party; a great conversational piece starter. We’re pairing bitter with salty or savoury. Let’s see what happens.
The Bitterness in Bitter Gourd
Maybe they would discover that this caraili is not so bitter as they thought. If they inquire, you would have an opportunity to boast about how to remove most of the bitterness in the caraili. You can remove the bitterness by salting or blanching the caraili.
The first, refers to generously sprinkling sea salt on the slices of caraili and then leave it to rest for about 30 minutes. The caraili is then washed and squeezed to remove the salt. The second, blanching, is to scald the caraili in simmering water for a few minutes. Remove it and place cold water on it to stop it from cooking.
These two methods can definitely help remove much of the bitterness from the vegetable. However, if you are concerned about losing some of the nutritious elements in the carilli, you could ignore the second option.
I feel that not much people in the Caribbean like to eat caraili. Many are therefore not able to enjoy the many benefits of this popular Asian vegetable we have in abundance in the Caribbean. Caraili, family to the squash, cucumber, cantaloupe or watermelon, is a very nutritious vegetable.
It contains phytonutrient polypeptide-P, a plant insulin known to lower blood sugar levels. Caraili is also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B-complex and vitamin A. It can also stimulate digestion. These are just a few of its benefits.
So, before we get into the recipe I would just like to share a few personal thoughts… At first I thought it would have been bitter like zebapique so I braced myself for the worst. Strangely enough, it wasn’t that bitter as I imagined. It was very tolerable on my tongue and I must say that I enjoyed it after a while. Serve it with a sauce of your choosing like tamarind or mango or just plain pepper sauce. Whatever your fancy. Here’s baked Kalounji.
Baked Kalounji Recipe
2 caraili (bitter gourd, karela)
1 lb minced chicken
1 cup cheese, grated
2 sweet pepper, small
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup green seasoning
salt to taste
Note: Alternatively, you can use the salting method explained earlier
but you will have to do it 30 minutes before attempting the recipe.
Season the meat with the green seasoning and salt.
In a deep pot, saute the onion in oil until translucent,
then add the minced chicken. Leave to cook, stirring every now and then.
Remove when the meat absorbs the liquid and is properly cooked .
Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until cheese bubbles.
Remove and leave to cool. Cut into 1″ slices before serving.
Well that’s it. I hope you like my version of baked Kalounji.
Ah gone 🙂