I was never a picky eater, but when I started thinking about how I felt about bitter gourd when I was young, I don’t have a distinct memory of either liking it or disliking it. May be my mom wasn’t feeding it to her kids, because she knew we wouldn’t like it or maybe she masked the bitterness and made us eat it, I have no memory whatsoever.
But one distinct memory I have was eating stuffed karela at our dear neighbors place; karelas were stuffed and tightly closed with kitchen twine and then sautéed until golden brown (may be in a batter—don’t remember that), but I remember them just melting in my mouth with no bitterness at all. I guess that was when I started really noticing and liking this bitter veggie.
I don’t mind slight bitterness anymore, but personally I try to take out as much of that bitter taste as I can by pre-cooking the gourd with yogurt or tamarind and then using the veggie as needed. For today’s Bengali dish for BM#5, I picked this delicious bitter gourd dish from Sandeepa’s Bong cookbook. I have to say this is one of the best karela dishes I have ever made. It’s a dry curry and the poppy seeds coat the bitter gourd and give them an almost creamy taste when eating. A must try for all Karela fans.
Did I mention the original recipe only has 5 ingredients, but with my pre-cooking the ingredient list grew to a whopping 6 ingredients that includes salt too.
Sandeepa's Original recipe here.
Bitter gourd/ Karela/ Kakarakaya – 4 medium, diced
Poppy seeds – 3tbsp
Dry Red chilies – 3
Yogurt – 2tbsp
Salt – to taste
Mustard seeds – 1tsp
- Grind poppy seeds in a spice grinder or small food processor either dry or with very little water.
- Mix yogurt with chopped karela, ½ tsp salt and ¼ cup of water in a microwave safe container; loosely cover and microwave for 5-6 minutes or until the veggie is almost tender, but not completely cooked. Drain and rinse. Squeeze the water completely from the veggie and keep aside.
- Heat 2tbsp oil in a sauté pan, add mustard seeds and once they start to platter, add the cooked karela and sauté on medium-low flame until completely cooked through and slightly browned around the edges.
- Add the poppy seed powder or paste; mix well so that the veggies are completely coated with the powder.
- Season with salt and cook for 5 more minutes until the flavors meld. Serve with steamed rice and enjoy.
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