I am guilty of making bitter curries as I was learning to cook. It was really surprising that the curries turned out bitter considering that I used little to no chili.
It was later on that my mum explained to me the causes and it all made sense.
It’s sad that all this is not documented anywhere for new chefs and everyone has to make the same mistakes. I am writing and sharing this hoping that you can benefit from mine and learn all the tips and tricks that will make sure your curries do not turn out to bitter.
Here are some of the possible reasons why your curries are turning out bitter-
Undercooking aromatics i.e. Onion, Ginger and Garlic
These 3 i.e. onion, ginger and garlic are core ingredients of any curry base. These are also naturally bitter in taste and ginger is also one of the hottest Indian spices. These aromatics should be added initially and cooked well. If undercooked these retain their natural bitter flavor and will make the curry bitter.
Using too much bitter spices
There are certain Indian spices that are naturally bitter in taste like fenugreek seeds, caraway seeds and mustard seeds. These are added to any recipe in moderation and adding excess of any other these can turn the whole curry bitter.
Do not puree raw onion
Raw onion tastes bitter and cooking changes its flavor to sweet. If you puree the onions they release water as onion juice has a very bitter taste and will make the curry bitter. When you add them to curry , they take really long to cook and you are more likely to undercook them.
Instead it is better to chop and cook them and then grind later if you need a paste. Cook your onions so that they are almost caramelized. Make sure you do not chop them too tiny that they release juice.
While recipes call for cooking spices in oil, this needs to be done very carefully. If the oil is too hot the spices will immediately burn as they do not have any moisture content.
So always make sure that the oil isn’t super hot or mix your spices with a couple of spoons of water before you add them to the oil. This will make sure that the spices get cooked well together without being burnt.
Use the right type of onions
Red onions are much better in taste than the yellow ones. The yellow onions are known to be the most bitter one. If you make a curry with pureed raw yellow onions there is a 99% chance that it will turn out to be bitter, unless you cook it really well(for more than 45 mins) to get rid of all the rawness.
Adding too much garam masala
Garam masala has a bitter earthy flavor to it. If you add too much garam masala it can make your entire dish bitter.
The aromatics and spices cooked together in fat form the base of curry and infuses flavor in the dish. If the masala gets burnt the dish will taste bitter due to the burnt flavor.
How to fix bitter curry?
Add some yogurt
If it is a tangy flavor curry you can add some beaten thick yogurt to your curry. Make sure that you take the curry off the gas when adding yogurt to it and the yogurt is at room temperature.
Adding a sweetener like sugar, jaggery
You can also improve the taste by adding some sugar to balance out the bitterness. Add a little bit at a time and taste. You might have to balance out sugar’s sweetness by adding some salt to it.
Adding cream can also make the bitter flavor better. Please make sure that you add the cream after taking the curry of the gas.
Let me know which one out of these reasons were the culprits behind your curry being bitter? Also, which one of the tips listed here did you use to fix it?