This might not be the prettiest breakfast, but it is one of the tastiest. Bitter gourds, the alien-looking spiky green fruit (like cucumbers, they are technically a fruit) that you might have seen in an Asian supermarket, are bitter so I’m not surprised it is an acquired taste for many Westerners. The pointy-ended fruit from Thailand are smaller and more astringent than the longer Indian varieties and more cucumber-like Chinese bitter melons.
Amongst the long-list of medicinal benefits attributed to the humble bitter gourd are cleansing and detoxification of the blood and liver, antiviral properties and help in regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics. Simply slice them half length-wise and scoop out the seeds, alleviating the bitter flavour by soaking in salt water for half an hour before cooking, then stuff or stir-fry.
One of my mum’s favourite childhood dishes was the bitter gourds that my grandma used to fry with dried prawns, curry leaves, turmeric and mustard seeds. The Chinese often serve it with scrambled eggs, so why not combine the cuisines in a fusion scramble. So, if you’re detoxing this January and have an Asian grocer’s nearby, why don’t you give it a try?
RECIPE: Prawn and Bitter Gourd Scramble
4 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
A handful of dried prawns, soaked in cold water
One small bitter gourd, deseeded and finely sliced
Half an onion, finely sliced
A clove of garlic, finely sliced
A pinch of mustard seeds
A sprinkle of turmeric
5-6 curry leaves
1-2 green chillies, sliced
A glug of oil
INSTRUCTIONS: Heat the oil in the pan and add the mustard seeds, so they splutter and pop, before adding the onion, garlic, curry leaves, chilli, turmeric and drained prawns. Be careful not to cook this on too high a heat as burning the mustard seeds will make the dish bitterer. Cook for a couple of minutes for the onions to start browning and turning translucent, before adding the sliced bitter gourd, moving everything around in the pan so it is well mixed. When the bitter gourd is al dente, pour in the eggs and leave for 30 seconds before lightly scrambling. I guess it is a matter of taste, but I prefer to let the bottom brown like an omelette, before gentle breaking it up. Serve with a piping hot roti and enjoy!