Karela Chips (Spicy Fried Bitter Gourd)

The joys of banana leaf curry

One of the best things to eat here in Malaysia is banana leaf curry.  Nothing hits the spot like a huge banana leaf with a big pile of rice with curry on top, crispy papadums on the side, and a plethora of vegetable curries, including my favorite: fried bitter gourd, aka karela chips.  These fried bitter melon or in this case, fried snake gourd, chips are salty and crispy with just a touch of spice…oh man, I could easily eat an entire heaping banana leaf pile of these things.  However, the nice people at the Banana Leaf restaurant will only allow me a large spoonful at most.  So, naturally, I took matters into my own hands and decided to make them myself.

karela chips with red chilis

Deep-fried health food

When it’s curry night, I pitch in by making these little tasty morsels.  For those of you who can’t find snake gourd-no worries! There are many substitutes such as bitter melon, zucchini or plain old cucumber. However, if you can find it, I highly recommend that you try it out as it is actually a nutritious vegetable rich in vitamins A, B, and C along with other minerals essential for good health. It has even been used to treat everything from heart disease and diabetes to preventing hair loss.  Snake gourd being so healthy makes me feel a little less bad about breading and deep-frying it…and….eating the entire bowl.  Oh well.  Healthy-ish or not, it’s still one of the best parts about curry night.



Fried bitter gourd with fresh cilantro and red chilis

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Fried bitter gourd with fresh cilantro and red chilis

Karela Chips (Spicy Fried Bitter Gourd)

  • Author: Spicepaw
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Fried bitter gourd seasoned and salted to make the best karela chips. This is a great side dish for curry or any other spicy entree. #indianrecipes #spicyrecipes #vegetarian #vegan


Units Scale

400500 g (14 oz-18 oz) snake gourd or bitter melon (you can always substitute this with zucchini)

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp Madras curry spice powder or chili powder

0.51 cup (64 g – 128 g) cornstarch

oil for deep frying


  1. Slice snake gourd lengthwise and cut into 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) pieces.
  2. Put in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tsp sea salt and mix.  Let sit for 45min to 1 hour to allow for all the excess water to drain away.  Squeeze out any water or, if you are like me and are using a salad spinner, spin out any excess water.
  3. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add 2 tsp of the Madras curry spice powder and mix thoroughly until all the vegetables are evenly coated.
  4. Add cornstarch and mix, allowing the gourd to dredge and be thoroughly coated in cornstarch.
  5. Heat oil in oil in a large wok or deep fryer and fry until crispy and golden (should be around 5 min).
  6. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon or spatula, drain the excess oil on paper towels and transfer to a bowl.  Garnish with slices of lemon.  If you are substituting zucchini for gourd, you may want to sprinkle some additional salt and spice on top of the fried chips for added flavor (again, if needed).


  1. Since not everyone can conveniently obtain snake gourd or bitter melon, then you can always substitute zucchini for it or even try out plain old cucumber.
  2. Snake gourd or bitter melon is best for this recipe as it best picks up the flavors of the salt and spice but zucchini can be substituted if you are keen on making this dish.  The zucchini retains more moisture so you may need to add an extra dusting of salt and spice after is has been fried.
  3.  I like to use a special homemade Madras curry powder to season the karela chips but you can use any spice mix you prefer.  Typically it is seasoned with red chile powder but feel free to experiment with new flavors.
  4. Cornstarch is king and works best for sticking to the wet vegetable and getting that crispy coating.  I add about 1/2 cup-1 cup of cornstarch to the veg and let it sit for about 5 minutes while the oil gets hot which allows it to properly dredge.
  • Prep Time: 60
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Category: Sides, Vegetable
  • Method: deep frying
  • Cuisine: Indian

Keywords: bitter gourd, zucchini, karela chips, Indian recipes, spicy recipes, vegetarian, vegan

Make sure to serve these karela chips with a tasty curry:

The Best Restaurant Style Rogan Josh with Lamb

Simple Indian Coriander (Cilantro) Chicken Curry

Aloo Palak (Pakistani Spinach and Potato Curry)


Author: Natasha

I'm just a busy expat mom who has a psychological need to feed people. I enjoy learning about new cultures, (especially the food) and enjoy experimenting with new ingredients and spices

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