The name bittergourd/Hagalkayi used to make us twitch our nose as kids. It was just an ugly looking gourd with pimply skin and noone wanted him to come home;) But this vegetable which true to its name tastes very bitter is one popular vegetable in Asian countries specially India, more so because of its medicinal properties. Remember, all that sweet is not really good for one's health and once in a while it is good to balance it with something bitter.
The extracts of Bitter gourd, also called Karela in hindi has been used since ancient times in natural medicine and in Ayurveda. Bitter gourd is known for its medicinal properties for many ailments, particularly in diabetes. These gourds are said to have a hypoglycemic compound also called 'plant-insulin’, which helps in bringing down the levels of sugar in the blood and urine in the body. For more information on the various health benefits of Bitter Gourds, see here.
For cooking, we usually use tender, un-matured Bitter gourds. If they are grown/ripe, then the seeds have to be removed. In our place we have some amazing ways of cooking it, so that the bitter taste is hidden by the elaborate use of other spices along with jaggery and tamarind extract. One such family favourite is this simple Palya or stir fry which I will be sharing here.
4 small tender Bitter gourds/Karela/Hagalkayi
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I usually get the frozen packet of shredded coconut from the Indian grocery store)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated/powdered jaggery
1 tbsp concentrated tamarind extract (or extract the juice of a lemon sized tamarind piece by squeezing it in water)
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal
a few curry leaves
Cut the Bittergourd vertically in halves and remove the seeds. (If using very tender ones, then there will not be any seeds.)Chop them into very small pieces. To these pieces add turmeric powder and salt and a little water. Mix well and keep aside for 30 mins. Then squeeze out the excess water.
Heat Oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and urad dal. When muster begins to splutter, add the curry leaves and saute for a while. Now add in the bitter gourd pieces, chilli powder, jaggery, tamarind extract and a little water. Mix well, close and allow to boil till tender.
Now adjust the salt and spice and add the grated coconut. Mix well and saute for 2-3 mins. Serve hot with Indian bread of your choice.
Preparation time: 35 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
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