Snake Gourd and Bitter Melon Stir Fry

This wonderfully spiced Indian dish gives stir-fry an new mix.

Winter 2013

  • Any combination of these vegetables makes an excellent vegetarian meal that can be served as is or with chapatis or rice.
    Photo by Wendy Kiang-Spray

Yield: 4 Servings

This recipe for snake gourd and bitter melon cooked in spices and besan (chick pea flour) is from one of my favorite blogs that feature authentic Indian family recipes. In this dish, both gourds are split in half lengthwise, scooped of their pith, and then cut into half moons. Spices such as ajwain contribute to a distinctly Indian flavor, and besan flour gives this dish a depth of flavor and great texture. Sautéing the besan flour before using brings out a nutty flavor that coats every bite of the vegetables. As an alternative to snake gourd and bitter melon, in-season angled luffa gourd or green beans can be substituted. Any combination of these vegetables makes an excellent vegetarian meal that can be served as is or with chapatis or rice. Visit the blog for more delicious Indian recipes. 

Snake Gourd and Bitter Melon Stir Fry Recipe


• 4 teaspoons cooking oil, divided
• 1/4 cup besan flour
• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
• 1/2 tablespoon ajwain
• 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
• 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons grated ginger
• 1-1/2 cups of snake gourd, sliced into thin half moons
• 1/4 cup bitter melon, sliced into thin half moons
• 1/2 tablespoon red chili powder
• 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
• salt


1. In a sauté pan, add 3 teaspoons of oil and besan flour. Sauté until flour begins to turn a darker shade of yellow. Be careful not to brown or the besan flour can become bitter. Set aside. 

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large pan until hot. Add cumin and ajwain seeds. Stir for a minute.

3. Add onions and ginger and sauté until soft.

4. Add sliced snake gourd and bitter melon, chili powder, turmeric powder, and a tablespoon of water. Cover with lid and cook until vegetables are tender. 

5. Remove lid, season with salt and heat until any moisture completely evaporates.

6. Sprinkle the roasted besan flour into the pan and sauté for another few minutes until ingredients are incorporated and the dish has dried out. Each grain of besan should be separated with no clumps.

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