To me, Berkeley Bowl is a sacred place worthy of a weekly pilgrimage. Perhaps the ultimate food-lover's grocery store, this massive Berkeley, CA, food emporium carries a huge selection of goods from around the world, and at great prices. I consider it a must stop for friends visiting the Bay Area, so why not share my adventures?
The most remarkable part of the store is probably the produce, which is clearly labeled to identify where each item comes from. The international and bulk sections offer never-ending inspiration, the meats and seafoods offer countless options and price points, and I always find myself mesmerized by fruits and vegetables from around the world that I've never seen before.
Case in point: Indian bitter melon. I grabbed five or six of these a week ago in an effort to learn about new exotic foods. Knowing nothing at all, I selected these purely based on the fact that they seemed sort of reptilian and would be fun to photograph. As the days went on (and as the bitter melon sat in the crisper drawer of my refrigerator), I became more hesitant, not sure what I was thinking.
Finally, I braved up, opened my computer, and did a little research. As it turns out, Indian bitter melon, or karela, is a commonly cooked vegetable in Indian cuisine. It's described all over the Internet as an "acquired taste," and apparently soaking it in salt water helps to remove some of the bitterness. I found recipes for stuffing and sautéing with various spices. The health benefits of this strange vegetable are plentiful, particularly in managing diabetes, and typically, I can convince myself to like anything if it's good for me.
To find out what I did with these and what I thought of them, keep reading.