Kakarakaya or karela or bitter gourd is one of my favorite vegetables…not many people like it because it is bitter but the more bitter it is the more I like it. It is my dad’s favorite too…more than the regular bitter gourd we get he used to love adavi kakarakaya which literally translates to forest bitter gourd – grown in the wild not commonly cultivated. He used to work in villages surrounding our town – he was a headmaster at public schools – and every once in a while he used to find these wild bitter gourds sold in the villages and he would bring them home for my mom to cook and those times there would be pure joy on his face…he would even sit with my mom to clean the vegetables. Lucky for him my mom was a great cook – he would have been a very unhappy man if that were not the case. I cannot make bitter gourd and not think of my dad. As is the case with any vegetable you can cook this vegetable several different ways but the easiest is a simply fry. My favorite dish of this vegetable is stuffed with spices and cooked as whole…I need to make that some time.
- Bitter gourd – 4
- Oil – 4 tbsp*
- Mustard seeds – 1/8 tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1/8 tsp
- Chana dal – 1/2 tsp
- Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
- Red chillies – 1
- Garlic – 1 clove
- Curry leaves – a few
- Dry coconut powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
- Turmeric – 1/8 tsp
- Red chilli powder – 1 to 2 tsps
- Coriander powder – 1/2 tsp
- Wash and peel bitter gourds; slice them into thin circles**. If the seeds are too hard discard them (I like the crunch of the seeds)
- Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds; when mustard seeds splatter add cumin, chana dal, urad dal and red chilli; cook until the seasoning browns
- Add bitter gourd and curry leaves; add turmeric, salt and mix well. Reduce the flame to medium and cook until bitter gourd becomes soft. Keep stirring so it won’t burn; meanwhile grind coconut powder, red chilli powder, garlic and a pinch of cumin to a coarse powder
- When it is almost cooked add the ground coconut powder, coriander powder and mix well; cook for a few more minutes.
*This takes quite a bit of oil. This is usually served as a condiment to eat with rice and sambar or dal and hence is more like chips. My mom sometimes deep fries the gourd pieces and sprinkles them with salt and chilli powder
**Another way of making this is dicing the gourd into 1/2 inch pieces. I prefer to cut them into circles.