Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kakarakaya Gojju- Hot, Sweet, Tangy Bitter Gourd

If you are thinking- what on earth is kakarakaya gojju, here, allow me to explain:

Kakarakaya is the Telugu name for bitter gourd, aka bitter melon, whilst Gojju is a Kannada word that means, and this is my interpretation- a mishmash of vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, okra, aubergine/eggplant, capsicum/bell pepper, etc, and of course, bitter melon. Fruits such as pineapples, apples, grapefruit, raisins, etc can also used to make gojju.  The final flavor profile is hot, sweet, and tangy. So I suppose one could call it ketchup or jam of sorts, or achaar or a chunky pickle or a chunky salsa. The optimum way of enjoying gojju is by mixing it up with some cooked rice, and adding a spoonful of ghee to it. YUM!

Bitter gourd is called karela in Hindi, and haagalkaai in Kannada. According to yours truly, only the elite foodies like this bitter beauty. For reasons unknown to me, most people cringe at the mere mention of bitter gourd. 

Now that the meanings are out of the way, here's a recipe for kakarakaya gojju that I learned from my sweetie's grandma. It's easy, and tastes delicious.

Yield: Enough for 2 karela-lovers

1. Sesame seeds- 4 tbs
2. Cumin seeds- 1 tbs
3. Urad dal- 1 tbs
4. Red chilis- minimum 7 (If you don't  have red chilis, can use red chili powder- 4-5 tsp)
5. Black pepper powder- 1-2 tsp
6. Mustard seeds- 1-2 tsp

7. Bitter gourd from the Indian store- 4
8. Oil- 7-10 tsp (skip skimping!)
9. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
10. Asafetida (hing)- 1/2 tsp
11. Salt to taste

Quantities of the following two ingredients depend more on your preference for sweet and tang, so adjust accordingly:

12. Jaggery powder- 4 tbs
13. Tamarind pulp- 4 tbs

14. Water- 1/4-1/2 cup, to adjust consistency of gojju according to your preference


The gojju masala:

1. Dry roast ingredients 1 through 6 until the mixture turns fragrant, and the sesame seeds begin to "dance" in the pan (and may start jumping out of the pan too!), and the urad dal turns brown.

*If using red chilis, add them towards the end, else they will burn. If using red chili powder- it can be added directly to the bitter gourd.

2. Transfer to a food processor or a coffee grinder and pulse into a fine powder. Set aside.

The bitter gourd:

Note: I have become a hardcore bitter gourd fan, and so now I merely wash it, chop it, cook it, and eat it. I don't do the whole pre-prepping by soaking in turmeric and salt, and then squeezing the bitterness out. I mean, instead I might as well suck on a honey stick!

1. In a pan, add 7-10 tsp of oil, heat, add a pinch of asafetida (hing), splutter 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds, and then throw in chopped bitter gourd, as well as a pinch of turmeric, followed by salt to taste. Stir fry for 5 minutes on high flame, and then sprinkle some water, lower flame between medium and low, cover, and cook for another 10 minutes, until the bitter gourd is tender, and yet retains some crunch.

2. Uncover. Add gojju masala to the above and stir. Add some water to thin it out a bit. Now add tamarind pulp and jaggery. Stir. The sesame seeds act as thickening agent, so go ahead and add quarter to a half cup of water. Taste. Add salt and chili powder if required. Taste. Cover again and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Switch off.

Enjoy with hot rotis or rice.

Check out these other bitter gourd recipes that I posted a while ago:

Jalapeno and Bitter Melon

Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Karela Stir Fry

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