Karavila sambal

Bitter melon sambal

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as a condiment

Appears in

Lands of the Curry Leaf

Lands of the Curry Leaf

By Peter Kuruvita

Published 2018

  • About

The reported health benefits of the bitter melon, also known as bitter gourd, have finally made it to the West, where it is now being sold in tablets to assist with all kinds of ailments. In Sri Lanka we used to eat it regularly.

My dad loved bitter melon this way, fried crisp with dried fish, but remember the greener it stays during its preparation, the better the melon is for you.

Salting the melon removes some of the bitterness, but it is called bitter melon for a reason! Do not combine the salad until ready to serve.

Preparation 20 minutes
Cooking 10–12 minutes


  • 5 bitter melons, cut in half lengthways, seeds removed
  • salt, for sprinkling, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) vegetable oil or rice bran oil, for deep-frying
  • 1 fresh curry leaf sprig, leaves picked
  • 80 g ( oz/1 cup) freshly grated coconut
  • 2 Indian green chillies, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and sliced
  • lime juice, to taste


Cut each melon half into 4 mm (3/16 inch) slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

Wash the melon slices under fresh running water and pat dry with paper towel or a clean tea towel.

Pour the vegetable oil into a deep heavy-based saucepan and heat to 180°C (350°F), or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns brown in 15 seconds.

Working in batches, carefully add the melon slices to the hot oil and cook for 2–3 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. Drain on paper towel and keep warm while cooking the remaining melon.

When all the slices are cooked, quickly fry the curry leaves in the hot oil for about 1 minute, until crisp.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and mix well. Serve immediately.