Ah, the bitter gourd.
It's ugly, it's bitter, it plays hard-to-get here in the U.S., and yet...it's so delicious, it drives me to poetry.
Well, not really, but it does make me a happier cook.
I've posted a couple of bitter gourd (karela or pagarkai) recipes before, but as you can see, I am in love with this healthful veggie, which makes me pounce on it anytime I spot a fresh bunch at my Indian grocery store which, unfortunately, is not all that often. I also keep trying to find new ways to cook it up. And the simpler the recipe, the happier I am.
This Karela Sabzi is so simple and so delicious, it's a treat for a busy weeknight. The caramelized onions give the sabzi a richness and depth, and the sugar and peanuts contrast beautifully with the bitterness of the gourd, toning it down while not disguising it completely, which would be a pity.
I used storebought Tava Masala in this sabzi: I love fresh-ground spices, but on a weeknight time's hard to find and it never hurts to take some help from the readymade-masala gods.
Now for the sabzi. Try it, even if you don't love the bitter gourd, and who knows? You might start writing odes to it too!
Bitter Gourd Sabzi
- 5 small bitter gourd melons (washed thoroughly and cut crosswise into thin rings, about 2 mm thick. Remove any hard seeds embedded in the white flesh.)
- 1 large onion (thinly sliced)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon tava masala (available at Indian grocery stores)
- ¼ cup peanuts (coarsely powdered)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil in a skillet.
- Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Add the sugar and stir in.
- On medium heat, cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they start to brown.
- Add the bitter gourd rings and salt.
- Toss thoroughly with the onions, then add the tava masala, cayenne and turmeric and stir together.
- Turn the heat to low, put a lid on the skillet, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes or so, until the onions and the bitter gourd caramelize and the bitter gourd is tender.
- Add the peanut powder and stir into the sabzi.
- Check salt. Turn off heat.
- Serve hot with chapatis or as a side-dish with rice and dal.