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...
Recipe for: Karela (bittergourd) chips
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)
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.