Bitter melon (also known as bitter cucumber, bitter gourd or karela) is an acquired taste. That's a polite way of saying a lot of people dislike it. As the name implies, it is bitter, but when cooked properly, it can make a delicious dish. I learned this particular recipe from my husband Lulu's auntie. Sherin Auntie made achar using Indian bittermelons. What is achar you ask? Achar is to Indian cuisine what nuoc mam is to Vietnamese food. It's a popular, oil-packed Indian pickled condiment. We usually eat it with kichdi (Indian lentil rice) and raita (Indian yogurt condiment).
First, Sherin Auntie seeded the karela and cut them into small shreds. She decided to par-boil them so they'd be tender but this step is optional. She then fried them with Indian spices until it formed a chunky, thick paste and completed the process by sealing the mixture in a jar. The last bit of this recipe is time; you have to let the achar stand for a few days so the ingredients infuse and develop into a flavorful condiment. But I promise you it's so addictive, you'll keep asking for more rice so you can eat more achar.
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