Caraili (Sautéed Bitter Melon)

Caraili, called kerala in India, is a type of bitter melon, a standard vegetable in the Trinidadian diet. It is light green and resembles a knobby-skinned cucumber. If you like radicchio, broccoli rabe or other bitter vegetables, you'll find caraili appealing as well. It is readily available in Asian and Middle Eastern markets. If your caraili are on the large side, cut them in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Salted codfish is a common ingredient in the Caribbean—brought to the islands as part of the Atlantic trade. It introduces enough salt to the dish, so no extra is called for. For a vegetarian version, omit the salted cod and add a pinch of salt.

Caraili (Sautéd Bitter Melon)
Photo: Penny De Los Santos
Active Time:
45 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins


  • 5 ounces salted cod fillet

  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil, divided

  • 1 pound caraili (2 medium), trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • ¼ teaspoon nigella seeds (see Tip)

  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

  • ¼ Scotch bonnet chile pepper (see Tip), seeded and minced

  • cup water

  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper


  1. Place cod in a large bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Return the cod to the bowl and add enough cold water to cover it; let stand for 1 hour. Drain, then shred the cod with a fork, picking out any small bones.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half the caraili slices and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat with another 1 tablespoon oil and the remaining caraili.

  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add nigella seeds and cook, stirring, until they begin to pop, about 15 seconds. Add tomato and chile and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Stir in the cod and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Return the caraili to the pan along with water and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the caraili is soft, about 15 minutes.


Known for their onion-like flavor, nigella seeds spruce up roasted veggies, a salad or an omelet. Find them online or at a specialty spice store.

Scotch bonnet chiles are a common ingredient in Trinidadian cuisine. They are some of the hotter peppers on the Scoville scale. Keep white vinegar handy to wipe down surfaces that the pepper has touched—including your hands—before washing with soap and water.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

162 Calories
11g Fat
8g Carbs
10g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Calories 162
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 10g 20%
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 28mg 9%
Sodium 353mg 15%
Potassium 530mg 11%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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