Bitter Gourd and Sweet Squash with Aromatics

Preparation info

  • Serves


    Appears in

    Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

    By Elizabeth Schneider

    Published 2001

    • About

    Intense and unadorned, this is a love-it-or-leave-it dish—for a love-it-or-leave-it vegetable. A dense, very sweet squash variety is essential to offset the gourd’s bitterness—and, in fact, the two vegetables are best popped in the mouth at the same time for flavor balance. Choose small bitter gourds, whether Chinese or Indian type.


    • teaspoons cumin seeds
    • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
    • ½ teaspoon anise seeds
    • 1 pound very small bitter gourds (5 Chinese or 10 Indian type)
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 small sweet hard squash (about pounds), such as kabocha type or Buttercup
    • 1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice


      1. Toast cumin, coriander, and anise in very wide skillet (preferably non-stick) over moderately low heat, shaking often, until fragrant and lightly browned. Crush or grind to a medium-coarse texture in suribachi, mortar, or spice mill. Set aside.
      2. Very lightly peel gourds—-just a slight once-over, to maintain the green underskin and ridges. Cut into ¼-inch slices. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt.
      3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with ½ tablespoon oil in same skillet in which you toasted spices. Over moderately low heat, brown gourd on both sides, adjusting heat so it cooks slowly—in about 15 minutes. Transfer to dish.
      4. Meanwhile, quarter squash lengthwise, then halve each piece crosswise. Remove seeds, peel, and cut into slices ¼ inch thick, trimming so that each piece is about 2 inches long. Toss with ¼ teaspoon salt.
      5. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter and ½ tablespoon oil in same pan. Add squash, tossing to coat. Cover and cook until not quite tender—3 to 4 minutes (do not cook through, or squash will turn mushy). Uncover. Cook until nicely browned, 5 to 10 minutes, raising heat as needed and tossing. Add to dish.
      6. Add remaining ½ tablespoon oil to pan. Add onion and stir over moderate heat to brown lightly, about 5 minutes. Return vegetables to pan. Add spice mixture and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook a few minutes to mingle flavors. Serve hot.