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Jan 29, 2008 04:04 PM

Indian Recipe. Help!!!

Every time I make curries or any other Indian recipes they end up tasting bitter. The only thing I can think of is that it has to do with the spices. I have ground my own but that made no difference. I made sure the spice weren't burnt (I thought this would do it). Didn't make a difference. Others who taste the end product say that they taste the bitterness though not as strongly as I do. Please if you have any advice let me know.

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  1. I suggest you buy some Patak's curry paste and try making curries with that...first. They make a really wide range of different curry pastes and I love them especially when I'm in a hurry or don't happen to have all the spices I need. My personal favourite is Madras curry paste, but they make others and all the ones I've tried have been good. Recipe is on the jar - but you can wing it a bit if you know what you're doing.

    1. I heard that pureeing *raw* onions for the curry paste in a blender or food processor is the culprit. Dunno if that is necessarily the case. So these days I do what my mom used to do - grate onions on a box grater instead. Traditionally, in my grandma's kitchen, pastes were made by mashing ingredients between a rough stone slab and a rough stone cylinder. If you have a molcajete, you can try using that to similar effect. Alternatively, since I don't like having to grate slippery onions, I'll dice or chop them, brown slowly until evenly caramelized and then puree in a fp/blender.

      Another source of bitterness could be the heat at which you're browning those onions. Remember not to rush it and use enough oil.

      If your recipes haven't had raw onions in them, let me see a couple of recipes you used and I can try to guess what might be the problem.

      1. what recipes are you making?
        fenugreek (one of the curry powder spices) is bitter in taste.
        chiles can also give a bitter taste.
        can you eat other people's indian cooking?

        2 Replies
        1. re: jen kalb

          I've made a variety of recipes from a variety of sources that use a variety of methods from toasting the spices in oil first to pureeing with onions to adding them to simmering liquids. I do find that as Kagey says below that the bitterness is tempered a bit by a long simmer but at this point I am truly frustrated.

          1. re: jen kalb

            turmeric is also bitter in large quantities.

            How about a simple preparation where you saute onions, etc. Add the ground spices without all the toasting, etc. With a long simmer onion breaks down without needing to be pureed first. At its core an Indian curry or stew is no different than an Italian or French one. Just different spices.

            Another step would be to start with simplest spice combinations, and see if you find one that does not taste bitter. Then add spices till you find the one(s) that you are most sensitive too.


          2. I've also had this same problem, but I find that the bitterness cooks out after I simmer the dish for a long time. I'm not sure what causes it, but sweettooth's suggestion made me wonder--it usually happens to me when I've blended a curry paste with onions. I'll be interested to hear any other ideas!

            1. i find it happens when i overuse the masala... i love lots of spice, but there's a point where it goes over the top

              1 Reply
              1. re: thew

                I noticed that when people who are not used to Indian food try out Indian cooking, they go waaayyy over board with the spices, I think you are spot on about the overused masala. Less is more. Well cooked subcontintal food is not overly spiced. Also, freshly ground spices are much stronger than pre-ground ones. So it means that one should use less. Turmeric is bitter and people who don't know better buy a so-called "curry powder" with too much in it, or dump too much in themselves. Most S. Asian dishes call for 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of turmeric. Very rarely more than that. Garam masala (another commonly abused ingredient) is especially bitter when freshly ground. A pinch will suffice. I made the same mistake recently when making a Kabuli pullao, the spicing of which is mainly accomplished with garam masala. I used the freshly ground one in a large quantity and ruined it :-( so sad.
                Caramelized onions also turn bitter when overfried, that can be a culprit. You have to remove them from the oil (or add the wet ingredients, as per required by the dish) when they are just reddish brown and crisp. Any blackening of the onions. will ruin the dish with a burnt bitter taste.