Monday, March 1, 2010

For the Love of Karela (Bitter Gourd? Melon)

I love karela. And I think the love of Karela runs in the family. My sis loves karela, my mum and dad love karela, my extended family love karela. I think you get my point. You can only have a 'love-hate' relationship with karela. Believe me its not a vegetable that you are ambivalent towards. It has a really bitter taste and either you can deal with it or not. Karela, like many bitter vegetables is good for health. In particular, karela helps with indigestion and it has a lectin of some sort that is like insulin and regular consumption of karela can help curb the onset of diabetes. So there it is good for you. And fresh karelas smell green.

Karela is mostly eaten in Asia and seems like the most common way of preparing it is by deep frying it. Of course anything deep fried should taste good right! Not these suckers- their seeds are very very bitter. Add some salt, squeeze some lime- now that sounds better. However in my household we stuff our Karela with a delicious mix of spices and saute them. These stuffed karelas are insanely delicious.

Here is a confession: I haven't ever really cooked a Karela but have consumed it almost on a daily basis when I lived at home. Believe me my mum makes an amazing Karela.
I had the pleasure of documenting my aunt, Darshana in Alfred, NY make her Karela. Its different from my mom's Karela recipe but just as yummy. OMG!


1/2 dozen Karelas (Bitter Melons) peeled
Fennel seeds crushed or powdered
Coriander Powder
Red Chili powder
Onions cut in 8's and separated
Oil to cook

1. Peel the karelas and slit them in the center length wise. Be careful not to cut them in half.

2. In a bowl mix all the dry spices. Add the red chili powder and salt according to taste.

3. Take generous helpings of the spice mix and stuff the karelas with the masala. Place the karelas in a plate till they are ready to cook

4. Heat oil in a pan and place the karela in the hot oil in a single layer.

5. Allow the karela to cook before you stir or else all the spices will fall in the oil and eventually burn. The total cooking time is approximately an hour, however toss the karela gently every 10 minutes. Cook until their green skin turn brown and they look well sauteed.

6. Take the onions cut them in eights (half them, quarter them and then further eight them). Separate the leaves of the onions so that they are all in a single layer. Toss any of the remaining spices in the bowl on the onions so that they are basically spiced.

7. Add the onions to the pan of karelas and stire gently.

8. Cover and let the onions saute with the karela.

So here we go delicious Karela. Oh so yummy with roti and some plain yogurt on the side.

I have always been curious about what the Karela looks like on the tree. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rough, bulbous, unpleasant texture of the skin actually blooms into this beautiful flower.

I saw this in an Asian grocery store in Chicago and for all the love of Karela I dont think I could drink this. Karela Pop - Really??

For more recipes on bitter gourd check out Foodista
Stuffed Karelas on FoodistaStuffed Karelas

Bitter Gourd on FoodistaBitter Gourd

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