Friday, August 22, 2014

Not So Bitter And Twisted

Finally! I invented a new dish which is not already on the Internet. I sometimes come up with something, like this potato raita or this beetroot chutney, thinking it would be unique, but somebody has already made it. But not this time. Well, something like it does, after the sixth or the seventh page of results, but not really.  It isn't cooked like mine, nor does it look anything like mine.

It started when I bought some ready-cut bitter gourd at the vegetable store. It was cut in strips, not in circles, as it is wont to be, and that's what attracted me to it. The next day, I stir-fried it so that it stayed fleshy and then added two tablespoons of thick curds to it. Once I tasted it, I couldn't stop thinking of it - and it's a long time since I felt that way about my own cooking.

My grandmother, who was diabetic, for some time used to drink a glass of raw bitter gourd juice in the hope that it would control the diabetes. It was not mixed with anything but water. I wonder if relieving the bitter gourd of its bitterness will still confer the health benefits it is supposed to. Not that I would not do it. I did. But let me tell you more about how I invented the dish and added flavour as I went along.

First, I put some salt on the strips of bitter gourd and left it alone for about 30 minutes. Then I squeezed all the water out of it, well, as much as I could, with my fist. Blithely, I assumed that most of the salt would have been discarded in the process. I was wrong, I should have washed it well in water after squeezing it, but I discovered that much later, when I tasted it as it was cooking.

I heated some oil (*the list of ingredients and proportions is at the bottom), tempered it with mustard, cumin, black gram, red chillies, curry leaves and garlic, then sauteed it constantly on a medium flame, never ignoring it. I do not use a lid as I do not want it going limp before I can control it.

After it had cooked for about eight minutes, I spiced it with some turmeric, salt and my special chilli powder, mixed it well and continued to saute it on low flame for another 2-3 minutes. At this point, I tasted it. It was still a little raw - I had not used any water till then - and it was quite salty.

I had soaked some tamarind in water for pappucharu so I sprinkled two handfuls of that water (not juice, I had not muddled it with the water yet to extract the juice, so you can call it tamarind-flavoured water) on the vegetable and finally put a lid on it as I was tiring of it not cooking. I kept an eye on it and when it tasted perfect - spicy, a wee bit tangy, less salty and not raw (but still firm), I took it off the fire.

After cooling it completely, I mixed thick curds, perhaps a day old, in gently. I am extremely gratified at how it turned out - the curds coated the bitter gourd just right, making it moist, not wet, and soaked up the spices marvellously. I even tried some plating because I was tired of my ordinary photos and I have to say I thought it looked like an alligator or a chameleon or a fish - I was not aiming for that effect, believe me!

 Here is the list of ingredients
 Bitter gourd, chopped: 2-3 cups (discard fibrous centre and seeds)
Gingelly/sesame oil: 4-5 tsp
 Mustard seed: 1/2 tsp
Cumin seed: 1/2 tsp
Black gram: 1 tsp
Red chillies: 2, broken into 4-5 pieces,
Curry leaves: 7-8
 Garlic: 5 cloves, bruised and peeled
Turmeric: 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder, special or ordinary: 2 tsp, or less (If you're using ordinary chilli powder, use 1 tsp of coriander powder and 1/2 a tsp of cumin powder too)
Tamarind-flavoured water: 2 handfuls
Coriander leaves, to garnish
Thick curds/yoghurt: 2 tbsp (do not beat it)


  1. Karela is a favourite of my husband's and my mom's-- but not of mine. However, this looks very tempting and yes, I have never seen it prepared with dahi. I'll give it a try, thanks for the recipe!

    1. You're welcome, let me know if you liked it!

  2. Hi Sra,

    It's so good to see you in prolific posting mode! I've been buried in schoolbooks but am coming up for air, so I did some catching up here tonight :) I have always *wanted* to like bitter gourd. It's so healthy that I should like it, right?

    I've given it a couple of tries but nothing has inspired me to come back for more, until now. I'll be giving this a try when I find some bitter gourd -- the garden has ridge gourd this year but no karela.

    Incidentally I think the photos rock -- not a bit like an alligator either :)

    All the best!

    1. Linda, so good to see you! When I saw three comments in moderation, before I could even know who commented, I prayed they weren't spam - getting so many all at once is very rare these days, you see :)

      I'm honoured this recipe is making you more open to karela. And thanks for the nice words about the photos!

    2. Happy to see you, Sra! Glad I was not "the spammer" ;)

      As always I can get lost in your blog and have been doing so -- lots more recipes bookmarked to try as the weather turns cooler, and great reading as well ... :)

  3. This looks so delicious can imagine

    1. Try it, Priyanka! How are you?

  4. Karela and dahi to me also ..aamchur powder that I have used, I liked the new look here Sra :-)..hugs and smiles

  5. Very nice recipe of Karela, I love this bitter veg. I would love to try, thanks for sharing.

  6. Let me know how it worked out for you, Sadhna

  7. This is one vegetable I dislike, ok i did eat them when mom made with a long face, the only way i liked to ea tthem was deep fired, you know they dry in the sun and then deep fry, that i thought was delicious.

    1. Actually, Finla, I never ate deep fried bittergourd till Hot Chips came up - and that is a recent development. I too didn't eat this as a child, only after I grew up.

  8. I like bitter gourd. One of version of the curry that mom makes is similar to this but she does not add curds after cooking. Looks good. I do remember you from P365 .

  9. Apparently Narasimha Rao - yea the former PM - had 6 bitter gourd juice in the morning to keep his diabetes in control. He could eat like a normal person in dinners without worrying, it seems. He also munched a handful of roasted peanuts instead of samosas during tea time meetings.