Karela or Bitter Gourd is one of the most bitter tasting and ugly looking vegetables but has many health benefits. It has great medicinal value especially in Ayurveda. Consumption of raw Karela juice, smoothie, paste, raw slices and cooked vegetable is recommended to ease digestion problems, boost the immune system. It helps detox and purify the blood, cures the skin from ailments, clears the skin, helps lower blood sugar levels and hence control diabetes. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and is low in calories so is considered good for weight loss.
Just mention the word “Karela” and you will find people making all types of faces in disgust or you will hear them saying “Yuck”. To reduce the bitterness you need to marinate in salt for a few minutes or a longer period. Some varieties of karela are extremely bitter; so you may have to marinate it overnight. You also need to use tamarind and jaggery or sugar to make the cooked bitter gourd palatable. But diabetics refrain from including jaggery or sugar.
There are quite a few ways of cooking Karela. You can stir fry, convert into chips, stuff them with vegetables or with mutton or beef mince, make a dry vegetable, cook in a thick masala, a simple sauce or curry. You can have a red, brown or green masala. The pre-preparation and the right blend of sweetness and tanginess is extremely important to cut out the bitterness and get a smooth and palatable taste.
My family enjoys the way I cook Karela and always look forward to eating it. Today’s recipe is my own creation with a combination of roasted dry spices and green chutney ingredients. This refreshing green masala makes the Bitter Gourd very inviting and above all the taste is very pleasant with hardly any bitterness. Even though it is not a very popular vegetable and you will not find it on the menus of restaurants, when you try out my recipe I am sure you will like Bitter Gourd/Karela just the way we do. 😀
- 500 gms. Karela (Bitter Gourd)
- 4 tbsps. fresh Tamarind Extract/Juice or paste – or to taste
- Walnut size piece – Jaggery (grated) or to taste
- 3 tbsps. Peanuts (roasted, peeled & roughly pounded)
- 4 tbsps. Vegetable Oil
- Salt to taste
- 3 cups Water or as needed
Wash, cut both ends, lightly scrape each karela, scoop out the seeds & pith with a pineapple/apple corer and cut into ¼ inch rounds or slice/dice as desired. Add about 1 tbsp. salt, toss & marinate for about 30 mins. Meanwhile, proceed to dry roast & then prepare the masala/curry/gravy paste..
For Dry Roasting :
- ¼ cup fresh Coconut (grated)
- 2 med. Onions (peeled & sliced)
- 3 tbsps. Coriander Seeds
- ½ tsp. Cumin Seeds (Jeera)
- 1tsp. Sauf (Fennel Seed)
- 1 tsp. Khus Khus (Poppy Seeds)
- 3 Cloves & ½ inch piece Cinnamon Stick
Dry roast the above mentioned ingredients one by one until you get a good aroma and each ingredient turns lightly brown. Add a few drops of oil while roasting coconut & onions if necessary.
For Wet Grinding:
- 5 cloves Garlic
- ¼ tsp. fresh Ginger (peeled & grated)
- 3 fresh Green Chillies or to taste(destem & deseed)
- ½ bunch fresh Green Coriander (pick, wash & drain)
Combine the dry roasted ingredients with the above mentioned wet ingredients and grind to a thick and coarse masala (spice) paste with enough water. Rinse the masala grinder jar with some water & reserve it to prepare the curry/sauce/gravy.
- ¼ tsp. Turmeric pwd.
- A sprig – Kadi Patta (Curry Leaves)
- ¼ tsp. Hing (Asafoetida)
- 1 tsp. Vegetable Oil
- 2 tbsps. Peanuts (roasted & peeled)
- 2 tbsps. freshly chopped Coriander
Procedure for the final preparation:
Wash the salted karela and drain completely through a sieve/colander.
Heat a pressure cooker body with oil.
Add the karela roundels & fry for about 3 mins. Drain and set aside.
Now add the prepared green masala paste and sauté till rawness disappears.
Add the fried karela pieces to the masala paste and give it a good stir.
Add the reserved masala water, jaggery, tamarind paste, peanuts, enough water and a little salt.
Stir well & pressure cook up to 2 whistles. Release pressure & open the cooker lid.
Adjust the consistency of the gravy with more water depending on the thickness you desire.
Taste to check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set aside.
Now, prepare the tempering by heating oil in a tempering pan until hot.
Add the tempering ingredients. Pour the tempering on to the cooked karela masala and close the lid.
Serve hot garnished with peanuts and coriander.
Enjoy with your favorite Indian bread or with steamed rice.