I have never been a fan of karela or bitter gourd. As the name suggests karelas can be very bitter and that is why as a kid (and adult!) I had a tough time eating this vegetable (fruit?). Its the kind of vegetable that people either hate or love. And although I would like to say I hate it, because of its nutritional benefits, its something that I keep trying to love.
Even though bitter gourd can be very bitter, it is full with benefits for your body and the only reason why when V suggested we buy some from the Indian grocery store I did not refuse. In India, a lot of diabetics have bitter gourd juice since it is known to reduce blood sugar levels. Besides being good for diabetics, bitter gourd also has other nutritional benefits, and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It is supposed to be a good cure for hangover too. Karele ka juice is also great for treating acne and clearing your skin up. Being low in calorie it is also great for those trying to keep a watch on that waist line.
One does have to get past its taste though to reap the benefits of Karela. But as I learnt with this recipe, if prepared correctly, you can remove much of the bitterness and actually get a dish that even I enjoyed. One of the most popular way to reduce the bitterness is to salt the bitter gourd and leave it for some time. Then squeeze the juice out, wash the gourd and cook it. I reserve the squeezed out juice and drink it like a shot, that ways I don’t lose out on any of the nutrients in the juice. Of course I wince with every gulp I take, but I keep reminding myself of the benefits and see myself through. Frying the gourd is another way to reduce the bitterness.
My grandmother would make a stuffed karela recipe which everyone enjoyed. Hers was the only way I would eat, if I would eat. Unfortunately, my grandmom is no more and I never got a chance to take the recipe from her because I never thought I would willingly make karela at home.
This recipe is adapted from Jiggs Kalra’s cookbook Prashad. Prashad and India: The Cookbook are two cookbooks I would recommend to anyone who is interested in Indian cooking. They are both my absolute favorite. While India: The Cookbook I bought after reading reviews on Amazon, Prashad was gifted to be my parents when they first came to visit me in the States. They have a copy too of the cookbook and after years of cooking from it, they knew I would appreciate it as much as they have.
You can find bitter gourd in Indian grocery stores. I do hope you get to try it, but if its your first time trying this vegetable be warned that it is not to everyone’s liking.
- 1 kg or 2 lbs medium size bitter gourd/karela
- 16 pearl onions ( I had only 4-5 so I used only that)
- 1¾ cups onions, pounded to a coarse paste
- 1 tsp amchoor or mango powder
- ½ tsp black pepper powder
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- Wash the karela. Peel it, reserving the scrapings in a bowl.
- Slit each karela on one side. Remove the seeds from the inside. Rub it with salt and add some salt to the scrapings. Keep aside for at least 30 minutes, preferably in the sun.
- Squeeze the bitter gourd and scrapings separately. I used my nut milk bag to squeeze the juice out. I reserve the liquid to gulp it like a shot. Its salty but the juice is where a lot of the nutrients lie and I do not want to lose out on them.
- Wash and dry the bitter gourd. Dry it with a napkin.
- Mix the coarsely pounded onions with the mango powder, black pepper powder, red chilli powder and turmeric powder.
- Keep ¼ th of the filling aside. Divide the rest of the filling equally and stuff the slit karelas. Seal the karelas with a string so that the filling does not come out.
- Heat oil in a wok/kadhai. Shallow fry the stuffed gourd over medium heat turning constantly until cooked. Remove from pan and keep aside.
- In the same pan shallow fry the remaining filling, scraping and pearl onions for a few minutes. Return the stuffed cooked gourd to the pan and stir for 2 minutes.
- Serve warm with flat bread.