Monday, January 15, 2007

Bitter Gourds

This is the proverbial line-in-the-sand.

On one side, are the I-like-Indian-food-if-its-not-too-spicy types, on the other, are the true connoisseurs of regional Indian cuisine.

The karela is the dividing line. It separates the women from the girls.

A couple of tricks to make it slightly less bitter. If you cut it into fine rounds, soak it in heavily salted water for at least an hour (longer is better.) This is just simple osmosis at play.

If you plan to stuff it, slit it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and sprinkle with coarse salt (a.k.a. "kosher salt".) Don't worry about the salt, you can always wash it away later. More is good.

Right before you prepare it, you need to squeeze the fruit to further remove the bitter juices.

Fried Karela with Cashews and Raisins


5 small karelas, cut into rounds, debittered (as above)
1/3 cup peas (frozen is fine.)
1/3 cup cashews (broken)
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
4-5 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp poppy seeds
salt to taste


Roast the cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet for a bit. Don't allow them to burn. Put them in the coffee grinder, and make a fine powder. You will see this referred to frequently as dhanajeeru (dhana = coriander seeds, jeeru = cumin seeds.)

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add the bitter melon, and fry for a while. Add the sugar and let the sugar caramelize over the bitter melon. (You may need more sugar.) Take the stuff out of the pan, and dry pat with a paper towel.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add the asafoetida, followed by the dhanajeeru, the chilli powder, and the cashews. Fry for a bit, add in all the ingredients, and let it cook till the peas are cooked.

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