Bitter Melon Stir-fry Recipe
There are a few different varieties of bitter melon: the Indian version is narrow and elongated with bumpy ridged protrusions all along its exterior. The Chinese version resembles a pale green cucumber with a smooth ridged exterior. You can find bitter melons in any Indian or Asian grocery store or market.
In Marathi, bitter melon is known as “karle” and in Hindi, it is known as “karela”. Now as I kid, I really hated this vegetable and never ate it. But just recently, I have found it to be quite tasty despite the slight bitter taste. There are also a few tips to help reduce the bitterness & by adding some delicious aromatics and spices.
My Karlyachi Bhaji is a delicious introduction to this unique and super healthy vegetable.
KARLYACHI BHAJI (Bitter Melon Stir Fry)
2-3 bitter melons (medium size)
1 tsp tamarind pulp (or tamarind concentrate or lemon juice)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1” piece of ginger, peeled & finely minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
½ tsp red chili powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of jaggery or sugar, optional
2 tsp oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly grated coconut for garnish
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
First clean and lightly scrape the outside of the bitter melons. Then de-seed and finely chop the bitter melons into small pieces.
Mix the tamarind with about 1 cup of water and allow the bitter melon pieces to soak in this liquid for at least 30 minutes. Now you can rinse the bitter melon before use and discard the soaking liquid (it is very bitter) or you can simply drink it for health purposes if you wish. Set aside until needed.
In a medium sauté pan on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 30 seconds or so. Then add in the onions along with the garlic and ginger. Sauté the onions until they are nicely browned and then add in the bitter melon pieces. Let fry until the bitter melon pieces are brown, well caramelized and just tender. This may take about 6-8 minutes or so. Then add in the spices (turmeric, red chili powder, salt & pepper) along with the sugar. Garnish with the grated coconut and cilantro leaves. Serve as part of any Indian meal with fresh phulkas and fragrant Basmati rice.
I like to add some baby corn or corn kernels to the dish for both taste and texture.
You could also add a tsp of some roasted rice flour, a tsp of some roasted besan (Bengal gram flour) or both to the dish – just add it in after the onions have browned & before adding in the bitter melon pieces. Let the flour cook for a few minutes before adding in the karela though.
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