Karela or Bitter Gaurd comes under category of fruit and also known as bitter melon. It is said that it originated in Indian subcontinent. As in name, it is extremely bitter in taste however has many varieties which differ substantially in shape and bitterness. In India its cooking method varies from region to region. In northern India, it is cooked with potatoes or onion, or cooked with stuffing. Bharwan karela or the Stuffed Bitter Guard is favourite dish in many North Indian household. Stuffing varies from combination of spices, spicy onion, spicy potato mix or Chana daal mix. In southern India it is stir fried with coconut, or red chilli, or in pickle form. Sun dried karelas are very much liked in Kerala. In eastern sector, specially in west bengal, traditionally Karela in any form is a must as the first course in Lunch. In my family, till my in laws were alive, there had to be a karela(teto means bitter) dish as first course in a minimum five course meal. It could be, bhaja(stir fry), Sheddho(boiled) or in Shukto. (Karela is a key ingredient in Shukto) Many people dislike this fruit for its bitterness. However, the bitterness could be reduced by marinating it in salt water, boiling in salt water, marinating in yogurt or drying it in sunlight with salt and spice mix.
It has numerous heath benefits so it is good to have it on your dining table at least once or twice a week.
Today I have prepared it with potato stuffing which came out extremely good and overnight marination in salt water and spicy potato stuffing, did reduce the bitterness. Actually I had learnt this stuffed karela from my Punjabi friends. The stuffing was of either spice mix or grated onion with spice mix. I came across with a girl who belonged to borderline area of U.P and Bihar. From her I learnt the potato stuffing karela. It was different from usual coriander and cumin powder mix masala. She used to put crushed fennel seeds also alongwith other masalas which was so unique in flavor and taste. Here I am sharing the same recipe, I am sure you will like it too.
- Karela/Bitter guard – 4
- Boiled and grated potato 4
- Mix of fennel seed,kalonji, methi dana ½ tspn
- Cumin powder ½ tspn
- Red chili powder ½ tspn(may increase if want hot)
- Turmeric powder ½ tspn
- Fennel seeds 2 tspn
- Coriander seeds 2 tspn
- Amchur/dry mango powder 1 tspn
- Salt 3 tspn
- 3 tbspn oil preferably mustard oil.
- Onion cut in layers 1
- Dry whole red chili 1
- Chopped Coriander leaves 1 tspn
Pre cooking preparation- Wash and peel the Karelas with peeler. Slit each one lengthwise from middle. With back of a spoon or head of the peeler, take out the seeds from the Karelas. Do not throw the peels, save it for future use.
Now wash it again and coat well with 2 tspn salt. Take a bowl and fill it with water so that the karelas are submerged in it. Keep it in fridge at least 4-6 hrs.
Grate the boiled potatoes.Crush the fennel and coriander seed in hand mortar or in a grinder. Keep aside.
Heat 2 tspn oil in pan. Fry the seeds taken out from the karelas till brown.
Put whole spice mix and crackle it till aromatic.Add crushed spices, and stir it for ½ mts, add all other spices one after another.
When browned add the grated potatoes. Mix well with the spices and check the seasoning. The stuffing is ready.
Now take out the karelas from salt water. Pat dry it completely.
Open the slit in the Karela and spoon the stuffing inside it. Stuff each one. Now its ready to be cooked.
Cooking method Option 1-
In a wok heat oil on high flame, reduce the heat and arrange the karelas in oil with open side facing you. Now slowly fry each one. Flip it on all side only after one side is totally done. When done from 3 sides the flip it to put the open side facing the oil. When browned from each side, arrange the open side facing up. Sprinkle little water and cook with the lid for 4-5 mts. This is done to make the karelas soft and the skin of the karelas do not become rubbery by browning it.
Karelas could be browned in Air Fryer too. Bush oil on the body and roast it in 180 degrees for 5-7 mins each side or till the skin is lightly browned. It can be served as it is or could be softened in wok.
Karelas are ready to serve. However, for garnishing and to add extra flavor, stir fry the onion slices in the residue oil along with a whole red chili and serve it alongwith the karelas. Garnish with chopped coriander.
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