Here is another sabji that adds to the healthy food regime. However, whether it is healthy or not depends on the way you make it. I have come across umpteen forms of karela which would remove it’s bitterness by squeezing them out using salt, deep fry them, boil them in salt water etc etc. However, I feel that it is the bitterness that is the good and healthy part in the vegetable, more since I have seen a person selling ‘karela juice’ at a spot near the morning walk area in my hometown. It is pure and bitter, and the guy always has an empty tumbler in an hour’s time!
You have to genuinely appreciate and enjoy the bitterness to accept this vegetable in your daily diet. That is what my (my mom’s) version does – cut up the gourd and cook it with minimal oil – coat it with a sprinkling of besan/ chickpea flour – another healthy ingredient. The only vice I find in this is that it turns out to be a bit dry – and has to be accompanied by a daal in the side. This also is an ideal accompaniment to carry for train travels.
Karela / Bitter Gourd – half kg
Besan / Chickpea Flour – 2 tbsp (flat, not heaped)
Oil – 1.5 tsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds – half tsp
Ajwain / Carom seeds – half tsp
Salt – as per taste
Haldi/ Turmeric Powder – half tsp
Laal Mirch / Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Dhania / Dry coriander powder – 2 tsp
Garam masala – half tsp
1. Cut the karela – first vertically, lengthwise into two halves. Chop each half in small moons. Discard mature, hard seeds. The soft ones are ok.
2. Wash the chopped vegetables under running water. If you do want to reduce the bitterness, here is what you can do – sprinkle salt on the chopped pieces and let it rest for 15 minutes. Pick up the pieces in handfuls and squeeze as hard as you can – the vegetable will ooze out water – and the bitterness too. I skip this step.
3. In a non-stick pan, heat the oil. Once hot, add jeera, ajwain, haldi, laal mirch. Let these sizzle for half a minute.
4. Add the karela pieces. Mix gently and cook covered. After every 5 to 7 minutes, remove the lid and mix gently.
5. After 15 minutes, try to cut up a piece with a spoon. If it breaks easily, the sabji is done. By this time, it would have started to turn golden-yellow-brown too.
6. At this stage, add salt, garam masala and dhania powder and mix.
7. Sprinkle the besan now. Mix gently so that the besan coats all the pieces. If you see the deal getting too dry, sprinkle some water. (hoping you know the difference between sprinkle and pour – we are just trying to add some moisture!).
8. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes and you are done.