Karawila Sambol (Bitter gourd Sambol)

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Growing up I absolutely hated bitter gourds and there is not a single vegetable I didn’t eat apart from these but thanks to mum that wasn’t the option always. My mum used to cook bitter gourds in a lot of different ways but I never used to eat more than a serving.

But when I moved to Japan I started craving for these, I guess you miss the things when you don’t get them too often. For a long time I couldn’t find  bitter gourd in the supermarket near me in Tokyo which was strange as it’s vastly used in Japanese Cuisine but then I found out the season and the places. The bitter gourd in Japan is not at all that bitter as we used to get in India so that was a jackpot for me.

Anyway coming back to this recipe, the first time I had this Sri Lankan dish was at my friend’s place in Tokyo and I absolutely loved it, however I didn’t know how to make it.

Fast forward now in Singapore bitter gourd is available in almost every supermarket so my helper Sakunthala (from Sri Lanka) makes this delicious dish quite often and I love it. This is her recipe and it is quite different than the traditional one but I definitely like it better.

Do give this recipe a try!

Ingredients :

  • 500 g bitter gourds thinly sliced in rounds
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 or to taste green chillies chopped
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp groundnut oil or coconut oil
  • Coriander for garnishing (optional)


Place the bitter gourd rounds in salted water for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain it and pat it dry, rub some salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.

Heat 2.5 tbsp oil and fry the bitter gourd till brown and crispy. Drain well on a paper towel.

Throw the rest of the oil if there is any left.

Heat rest of the oil, add in the curry leaves and ¼ of the sliced onion and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add in the chilli and the fried bitter gourd. Fry for 3-4 minutes.

When cool add in the rest of the onion, tomato, black pepper and lime juice. Mix it well with your hand, adjust salt if needed.

Garnish with coriander if desired.

Serve as a side or as a salad with rice.

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