I like Karela. There I said it! I’m that weirdo who looks forward to numbing my palate with the bitterness of this vegetable. Oh and it’s bittergourd I’m talking about by the way. But like so many things we mask beautifully with our spices and techniques in Indian cooking, this dish is not just palatable- it’s delicious.
Now, I know there are lots of theories of soaking and salting the karela in order to reduce some of it’s bitterness. But I think that’s totally missing the whole point of the journey of bitter notes this gourd takes you on. And let’s face it, bitterness is an unavoidable part of life. Think algebra. Paper straws. Fatless bacon. I mean, this is the least of your worries.
This recipe is easy, quick and a great way to eat this gorgeous gift of nature. And please, don’t go scraping out those spines. It doesn’t amount to less karela, just more useless effort.
STUFFED KARELA or BITTER GOURD
Cook time – 15 minutes
Prep time- 15-20 minutes
6-7 small tender bittergourds
3 tablespoons freshly grated coconut
3 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander leaves and stems
1 small grated onion
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon amchur powder (dry mango powder) (substitute- 1/2 tablespoon lime juice)
salt as per taste
Oil to shallow fry
Prep the karela by slitting it on one side (not through) so it forms a little opening. Scoop out some of the pith (but not all of it if it’s tender). Apply some turmeric on the outside of the karela and some salt too so that once cooked the entire vegetable is salted well.
At this stage you can par cook the karelas. But it’s purely optional.
To par cook, bring water to a boil and drop karelas in. Cook for about 5 minutes. Remove and drain.
Heat a pan over medium heat with 2 teaspoons of oil till the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and fry on medium heat till soft. add the coconut, fry till soft. Add drops of water to soften and fry. Add the powdered spices, salt and mix thoroughly- about a minute. Add the fresh coriander leaves and turn off the heat. Cool slightly and grind this mixture (just two pulses) to a rough mix.
Fill the mixture into the karela cavity.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat with about 2 tblsp oil till shimmering. Gently slide in the karelas and cook over medium low heat- turning occasionally to ensure an even, golden brown crisp.
There, stuffed bittergourd is ready for the table.
Your endocrinologist can thank me later.