Back in the day when I religiously ate home cooked meals there was almost little to no fuss involved in eating whatever my mother prepared for the day. A fantastic cook (that many would attest to) and an even better host, her meals were indeed scrumptious leaving eaters with larger bellies and happier hearts. Just like majority of Indian mothers, mine wouldn’t give me the liberty to choose what I ate and hence had me forcibly shove every green vegetable (which many of my peers do not!) down my throat- many of which were done under fear of being reprimanded.
One such vegetable is bitter gourd also known as karela in hindi. Like its name suggests, this vegetable, mildly resembling a porcupine, is extremely pungent due to its bitter taste. Known for its health benefits- or at least that’s how my mother would coax me into having it, eventually I would succumb to eating it with the help of a few or maybe more glasses of water.
Honestly, ever since I’ve ventured into cooking myself, the thought about experimenting with different dishes had me standing before this dreaded vegetable several times. Also the thought of its health benefits almost forcing me to start including it in my daily cooking regime.
To the unknown, the health benefits of bitter gourd is great:-
- It helps effectively maintain blood sugar levels
- Aids in depreciating the bad cholesterol levels
- Karela (bitter gourd) is a pure anti-oxidant which helps in achieving glowing skin and lustrous locks.
A handy dandy tip for those working with the vegetable for the first time- soak sliced karela in a bowl of warm salted water to reduce its bitterness. On soaking for 15-20 minutes strain the water from the karela and begin cooking.
Karele Ki Sabzi
- 2 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds saunf
- 2 1 ⁄2 cups red onion sliced
- 4 cups karela bitter gourd (washed, cleaned and sliced) 1 teaspoon turmeric
- Salt to taste
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 1 ⁄2 teaspoon amchur powder
Heat oil in a wok or saute pan, on medium high heat. Add fennel seeds. As they sputter add bitter gourd. Saute for 5 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium low and add red onion, followed by turmeric. Cook for 15 minutes, gently stirring every 23 minutes, in order to keep bitter gourd from sticking to the bottom.
Add salt and coriander powder. Stir well and cook for for another 35 minutes until bitter gourd is cooked through.
Sprinkle amchur powder. Toss well to mix well. Turn off the heat. Cover with a lid for 10 minutes before serving as a side with a simple Indian meal of roti, dal soup and steamed rice.
● To prep karela, snip the two ends, gently scrape the spiky surface and then slice them.
● To reduce the bitterness of karela, soak sliced karela to a bowl filled with warm salted water. Let it soak for 15 20 minutes. Then strain the water and continue with the cooking process.
● If available, use mustard oil for the dish. It gives the dish a mild nutty flavor. Heat mustard oil until it starts to emit smoke before adding fennel seeds.