"Karela"or "Bitter gourd" is one vegetable which is not relished by many because of its bitter taste, though it has numerous health benefits too. It is considered to be a great home remedy for diabetics, an excellent blood purifier and used for treating acne.
As a kid my first reaction to Karela used to be "nahi...no maa....why karela...." but as I grew up, I realised it was not her choice to make Karela for us,but it was good for her health, as she was diabetic. She made karela in many forms be it "karele wali dal", "karele ke sukhi subzi" ," karela chips" or "bharwan karela"... and trust me whatever she made used to taste yummy and I would like to share with you her recipe for "Bharwan Karela".
Bharwan Karela is my mom's summer speciality as it is stuffed with a mixture of onions and raw mango which is usually available during the summer months. The best thing about this karela recipe is that you can make extra and store it in the fridge, reheat and eat as and when you like....It stays perfectly well for almost a week. Not to forget here is the special "Salt treatment" for the karelas which helps in reducing the bitter taste of the Karela.
Bharwan Karela also takes be back to good old times n summer holidays....when we used to go on our long awaited annual holidays,over night train journey, as air travel was not very common and mom used to make these Bharwan Karelas specially for the train journey along with parathas....Oh!...just miss those days....
Bitter gourd - 2 pcs (approx. 400 grams)
Onion, chopped - 2 medium (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
Raw mango, grated - 1 medium (approx - 3/4th cup)
Paanch Phoran - 1 teaspoon
Red chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 2 teaspoon
Achari masala - 1 1/2 tablespoon
Mustard Oil - 3 tablespoon
Thread to tie the karela
Rinse the karelas and scrape the outer skin. Keep the scrapings. Make vertical cuts on each karela, keeping the ends intact. Carefully remove the seeds and the pith.
Apply salt to the karela and leave it for an hour or so.
Separate the seeds from the pith. Mix the pith along with the outer scraping of the karela and add around half a teaspoon of salt, mix well and keep aside for an hour or so.
After an hour, throw away the juices released by the karela and the scraping mixture. Wash the karela and the scraping and pith mixture under running water to remove any excess salt. This process of rubbing the karela with salt and and later washing it helps is removing the bitter taste, though not 100% ,but yes it does make a lot of difference.
In the mean time wash and peal the raw mango, grate and keep aside.
To prepare the karela stuffing heat 2 tablespoon of mustard oil in a kadhai, temper with Paanch Phoran, once the spices start to release the aroma add the chopped onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Once the onion turns translucent add the scraping and pith mixture, mix well and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the red chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder, mix well and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the Achari masala along with salt mix well and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add the grated raw mango, mix well, turn off the heat immediately.
Divide the ready masala into 2 equal portions.Stuff each karela with the masala. Tie the karela using a thread ensuring that the masala does not come out. However if some masala does spill out do not worry, just eat it :)
Once the karela is stuffed and tied heat around one tablespoon of oil in a kadhai, spread the oil evenly around the kadhai.(We just need the oil for greasing and to avoid the karela from sticking to the bottom. Once the kadhai is well coated with oil place the karelas, cover and cook over medium flame. It would take around 10 - 15 minutes to cook depending on the size of the karela, keep checking and turning the karela at regular intervel to ensure that they are well done on all sides and dont get burnt.
Serve hot along with roti or paratha, or just enjoy it as a side dish along with dal and rice.
For this recipe I have used 2 karelas which was almost 400 grams as I was unable to find smaller ones, however you could use smaller karelas and the ingredients would be sufficient to fill 4 small karelas of approximately the same weight.
I have used the pith and the scrapings of the karela for the filling along with other ingredients as these are edible but discarded the seeds as they were hard. I actually never threw away the seeds but dry roasted them , added some salt and munched on them....its bitter but I still love them...
Finally while cooking the stuffed karela I have used very little oil, basically I have used oil to grease the kadhai, you could also use a non stick frying pan for the final stage of cooking. Don't worry about using very little oil, green vegetables have a lot of water content, since we have covered and cooked the karela, it will cook in its own juices.
Also I have used Mustard oil as that's how it is traditionally prepared in our home but you could use any cooking oil and am sure it will taste great.