Thursday, August 4, 2011

Stuffed "Karela" (Bitter Melon)

I know, I know- most of you hate the poor bitter melon/bitter gourd. It is a shame, really, that people despise it so much. Well, if you are like me and if not love, but at least like this infamous vegetable (actually a fruit), then congratulations, you are in my list of THE Elite Bitter Melon Lovers! *Applause*

I remember my mom used to make this awesome stuffed "karela" (karela is the hindi word for bitter gourd/bitter melon) preparation wherein she would stuff each karela with this ridiculously tasty mixture of onions, tomatoes and spices and tie up each karela with cord so as to hold the stuffing in and then fry it. Before serving, she would untie the cord from all of the karelas and then we would eat with rotis (Indian bread). Then, with the years and awareness about how you shouldn't eat too much of fried food, she started baking those stuffed karelas rather than frying them. They were equally delicious. The good thing was that all four of us, i.e. my parents, my brother and I, loved karela. 

Now, in my family, sadly, only I love karela! The husband and the kids, like most of the world, simply hate it. Therefore, I don't cook it very often. And as far as I know, not many of our friends like it either. In fact, the last time I cooked this dish for a party was about 7 or 8 years ago and but for four people, including  me, everybody avoided the gorgeous stuffed karela, which BTW, was pretty darn tasty. Therefore for a party, I usually end up cooking the same old standard dishes that everybody eats, because not everybody is adventurous when it comes to eating a variety of vegetables........oh well, enough with the ranting, I suppose!

The Needs:

1. Bitter melon (bitter gourd)- I pick up the Chinese bitter melon now a days, rather than the Indian bitter gourd, because there's no pre-preparation to be done. Because the latter is way more bitter than the former, it requires to be first marinated in some salt, lemon juice and turmeric and then you gotta squeeze out all the extra bitterness and even then, there is no well, I'd rather skip all that and go straight to the cooking part.

2. 1 medium onion- finely chopped

3. 2 tomatoes or alternately 1-2 tablespoon tomato paste

4. 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed up

5. 1/2 inch ginger piece- grated

6. Salt to taste

7. Turmeric powder- a pinch

8. Red chilli powder- per taste

9. Dry mango powder (Aamchoor)- 1 teaspoon

10. Oil for cooking

11. 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

The beautiful and hated Bitter melon

The Method:

1. I peel the bitter melon (as in the above picture) and then cut into smaller pieces (cylinders). Then I roughly scoop out the insides with a little spoon so as to be able to stuff each cylinder with the filling. I say roughly because I prefer the seeds and some of the "flesh."

Cut into individual pieces

Insides scooped out (I quite like the seeds)

2. I then prepare the filling that is the same onion-tomato-ginger-garlic concoction that I use in majority of my Indian cooking. So fry everything together, add salt, red chilli powder per taste and also a teaspoon or so of aamchoor, i.e. dry mango powder. No garam masala for this one.

The filling

3. Then I stuff each karela cylinder with this filling. Pretty easy to do so with a little spoon.

Stuffed and ready
4. Once the karelas have been stuffed, I pour in 5-6 teaspoons of oil, get the heat going, add a teaspoon of cumin seeds to splutter and then I gently drop the stuffed karelas into this hot oil and then I put the lid on and turn down the stove.

Browning and cooking one side
Lid is on (you can see my hands and camera!)

5. After 5-8 minutes, I remove the lid and then flip the bitter melon cylinders (a pair of tongs usually works well for this purpose) and then cover the lid once again.

Side 1 done

Cooking and browning side 2
 6. After another 5 minutes, I take off the lid. At this point the dish is pretty much done. Towards the end, I keep turning the karelas so as to uniformly brown them on all sides--- takes an extra 2 minutes, that's all. And that's it, stuffed karela is ready to be served! Before serving, I sprinkle some salt over the karelas so that they don't taste bland.

Delicious Stuffed Karela

I like to eat my stuffed karela with roti or plain parantha. If there's dal (lentils) and rice, then I like to eat this as an accompaniment to the dal and rice. Biting into that bitterness and then into that spicy-tangy goodness is delightful--- to me, at least!

I cannot make statements like, "my kids love this" or "my husband is crazy about this," because the fact is that they HATE it. Sad state of affairs indeed! But for now, I celebrate myself and I am proud to be one amongst the very few Elite bitter melon lovers!


adibud34 said...

Mmm mmmm....karela is awesome indeed! Pity the poor folks who don't even try it - they don't follow, "if it looks good, eat it!"

Dreamer said...

Totally! Tsk, Tsk- those karela-haters!

lalitha said...

People will imbibe the most disgusting concoctions of alcohol just to get a high but here is a marvellously tasty vegetable full of good health and nutrition, and it's shunned and avoided like a criminal! Love your take on stuffed karela, for us Telugus karela is a gourmet delight with a hundred ways of preparing it.

Dreamer said...

Thanks, Lalitha! I agree and wow! many different recipes for karela, you say? Gotta explore!