Bitter melon is related to squash, watermelons and other gourds. It is green, cylindrical and sports warts, and it has a soft, white to light-green flesh, much like many varieties of cucumbers. However, unlike cukes and other melons, bitter melons are not sweet or bland. The melons, sometimes called balsam pears, live up to their sour names. They are high in many nutrients, though, and may help ward off cancer, which makes them worth learning to love. It is best served with other flavors that counter the bitterness of the gourd.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into long strips. Boil them until slightly tender, about 15 minutes.
Rinse the bitter melons while boiling the potatoes. Slice off the ends of each melon. Slice into quarter-inch coins.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the bitter melon slices in a single layer and fry until slightly browned. If all of the slices do not fit at first, add them as the first batch cooks down in size.
Add the potatoes, onions and spices to the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat until potatoes start to brown, stirring frequently.
Add the tomatoes and place a lid on the pan, leaving it slightly off to allow venting. Continue simmering over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until all of the ingredients are cooked, stirring occasionally.
Like eggplant, bitter melon can be salted to lessen bitterness. Slice the melon lengthwise, remove the seeds and core; salt liberally and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly to remove the salt and then cook as desired.