Monday, June 13, 2005

Karela (bittergourd) chips

This is a recipe for grown-ups, because I cannot imagine any child ever liking something as bitter-tasting as karela or bittergourd - the name says it all. I would say that even for grown-ups, it is an acquired taste. It certainly was for me. It's only recently that I've felt like cooking karela... possibly because it's a reminder of India, and I cant get it locally - I dunno. Perhaps driving some 50-odd miles for vegetables makes me want to try even those that I'm not terribly fond of, just to justify the long trip!

I DO know that my mom hardly ever made karela at home because we kids simply would not touch it. I have to confess that even now, the only way I can eat it is if it's fried. Some of the bitterness lingers on the palate even then, but it's almost a pleasant sort of bitterness - if that can be imagined. Definitely an acquired taste.

And annoyingly, like most other unpleasant things, bittergourds are excellent for health - it's known for helping to lower blood sugar and high blood pressure, among other things. I guess the vegetable is mostly known in the Far East and India, the Caribbean and possibly parts of Africa. Bittergourds wouldnt carry off the first prize for good looks, either - the outer skin, ridged and knobbly, always reminds me of crocodile skin.

The bitterest part of the vegetable is the seeds inside. So unless the bittergourds are very young and tender, I would always recommend that the middle portion (containing the seeds) should be scraped out. Sprinkling the cut vegetable with salt and leaving it to sit for about an hour helps bring out the watery content, thereby reducing the bitterness some more.

I dont know how much of the goodness is lost in frying the bittergourd, but I figure that eating it fried will still be more beneficial than not eating it at all. Well, it makes sense to me...

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Recipe for: Karela (bittergourd) chips

Ingredients:

3-4 bittergourds
2 tsp salt

For the seasoning:
2 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp gram flour
1 tsp red chilli powder (or more according to taste)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
a pinch of asafoetida powder (optional)

Method:

1. Slice each piece of bittergourd into fairly thin half-moon shape. Transfer them to a colander and sprinkle the salt over. Shake the colander to distribute the salt evenly. Leave to rest for about an hour or so.

2. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the bittergourd pieces and dry them on paper towels. Transfer to a Ziploc bag or a big bowl.

3. Mix the seasoning ingredients together and sprinkle over the pieces. Shake the bag or bowl so that the seasoning is distributed evenly over the pieces.

4. Heat the oil in a wok, and fry the bittergourd pieces in batches to a crisp brown.

Serve as an accompaniment with Indian rice dishes, or eat as a snack.

17 comments:

Indira said...

You brought back memories of Karela chips, cut into thin round shapes, deep fried in oil till they are crunchy, sprinkled with salt and pepper, we used to eat at our hostel every Thursday night during our college years. Best way to prepare Karela in my opinion.

Mika said...

That looks yummy. Karela is a sort of unpleasant taste even for adults but frying makes it better. The new chain of chips shop called Hot chips in Chennai sells this and it is mighty tasty. Next Shammi, how about some yam chips? Do you know of a recipe?

shammi said...

Indira, yeah - best way to make karela. My mom tried to make a sort of Kootu with it, but ugh... too bitter to swallow.

shammi said...

Gotta buy yam first - not for another week or so, methinks. Actually, Mika, is yam the big round rough-skinned root veg that looks a bit like a cross-section of elephant? It's called "chenai kizhangu" in Tamil, dunno the Hindi word for it and never been sure of the English word either. Can help?

Radha said...

The yam ("chenai" in Tamil) you're talking about is called "Suran" in Hindi, Shyam. I think what Mika is asking for is what we call "maravelli kizhangu" (tapioca chips?) You know, the stuff that as usual tastes best in Kerala (not to be confused with karela :P) - along with nendrangai and jackfruit chips?

Radha said...

Unless of course, "maravelli kizhangu" actually means sweet potato. Never have been able to keep anything other than chenai and chepai kizhangus straight in my head :P

Mika said...

Yes Shammi it is chenai kizhangu. Your description is so funny!

shammi said...

Radha, I suppose tapioca = cassava or mogo?

AF said...

Nice one.. As Mika says, Krishna sweets in chennai, offers it as pakodas and its very tasty.

Ravi said...

Hey Shyam..what a topical post! This veggie - deep, deep fried - is quite popular with my wife and other elders in our family. Strangely, I like the crunchy, scrunchy seeds the best! Never felt them to be bitter at all!

shammi said...

Ravi - you're KIDDING!! :) You must be the only person in the world who doesnt find the seeds bitter!

Nupur said...

ooh, I have always resisted karela. Last time I was in India my fiance's mom made these! She urged me to taste it and future moms-in-law usually get their way so I did . Umm, still don't like it :D

shammi said...

Heheh Nupur... so your mother-in-law doesnt make you eat 'em any more? :)

Radha said...

Yes, Shyam - Tapioca = Cassava.

Indira said...

Shammi, you have been tagged. Do it only if this interests you.:)

Anonymous said...

Hi , I am visitng your blog for the first time, since I was searching for a recipe for karela chips....loved it and made it exactly the same way, I encourage other readers to try this recipe out....and you will want karela again and again..
Perfect recipe and thnx once again!

ANKUR said...

ANKUR SAXENA from pondicherry university ,INDIA,
chipps from the bittergourd is a good for patient of diabetics as well as normal person.But bitter taste is major problem .bitter taste can be reduced by two ways first salt while drying(after cutting leave it for 1 or 1.5 hr with salt)and second.after frying the chipps pass/dipp into the tomato ketchup.....
then taste will be better than previous one