Bittergourd is used widely for its medicinal values. Bittergourd and the parts of its plants are useful as traditional medicines for curing of diabetes, stomach complaints, skin diseases, ulcers or cough.
Various types of dishes are made from bitter gourd. Not only in India but it is widely used in Asian cuisine.
In India, the bittergourd preparation varies with region. In North Indian cuisine- they make by stuffing it with spices in the form of curry also known as Bharwa Karele (Stuffed karela). In South Indian cuisine, it is used in the dishes thoran/thuvaran (mixed with grated coconut), mezhukkuparatti (stir fried with spices), theeyal (cooked with roasted coconut) and pachadi.
Many people add salt to the sliced bittergourd and keep it for some time. They then squeeze out the excess of water. This helps in reducing the bitterness. Some people also peel off the skin and use only the flesh of bittergourd.
The bittergourd grows on a vine. It is best to eat it when it is tender. The skin, flesh and the seeds are less bitter at this stage. But as it ripens, the flesh and seeds tend to become harder and more bitter.
I try to use the tender bittergourd as they are easy to chop, cook and then can be used directly with the skin.
I will share with you popular Gujarati cuisine preparation of bittergourd. It is made from tender bittergourd and stir fried with the spices, jaggery, cashew nuts, peanuts and sesame seeds. The cashew nuts and peanuts give a crunchy effect to the dish. You can mostly find this dish on the menu during marriage functions. It is served with puri or chapati and aamras. There they generally deep fry the bittergourd .
I have made it without frying. I make it regularly in my house. The jaggery helps in reducing bitterness and when it melts, the bittergourd and potatoes are nicely coated with it. This gives a nice sweet taste. Howeer, the taste balanced with other different spices used.
Serve it with puri or chapati. It also goes well Gujaratiarati dal and rice.
Kaju Karela (Bitter Gourd And Cashewnut Stir Fry)
- 250 gm bitter gourd cleaned, washes and chopped in semicircles.(you can discard seeds if they are to hard)
- 1 medium potato chopped lengthwise
- 4 tbsp jaggery grated
- 4 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp cashew nut halved
- 2 tbsp peanuts roasted and halved
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds. Use 2 tsp for garnishing
- 2 tbsp raisin
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp asafoetida
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp red chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 cup coriander chopped. leave a little for garnishing.
- salt as per taste
- Chop the bittergourd and potato as shown. I have also used the seed which are tender as I like the crunchy texture it gives to the dish. I have used the bittergourd with the skin (why should we remove the goodness from it!)
- Heat oil in the pan. Add the mustard seed and cumin seeds. When they crackle add the asafoetida, sesame seeds and turmeric powder.
- Add the chopped bittergourd and potatoes. Add salt. Mix well and cover and cook them till tender on medium heat.
- Once they are cooked, remove the lid and add red chili powder, coriander cumin seed powder and mix well.
- Add the jaggery and let it melt.
- Add the cashewnuts, roasted peanuts and raisin and saute them till the jaggery is nicely coated with the bitter gourd and potato. Add the chopped coriander and mix well. The Kaju karela is ready.
- Garnish with chopped coriander and sesame seed and serve it with roti, puri and gujarati dal and rice.