Indian Bitter Melon (Karela) and Potato Stir Fry
Indian Bitter Melon or Karela or bitter gourd is used a lot in Indian and Asian cuisine. Very popular for its bitter taste and sugar-controlling properties, karela stir-fry is a common side dish enjoyed with steamed rice and lentils in Indian or with soups, rice, or noodles in many other Asian countries. Often, Karelas are deep fried or cured with salt to get rid of excessive bitterness. However, once you develop a taste for bitter and spicy dishes made with Karela, you can really enjoy its taste.
A lot of people in India even drink raw Karela juice to combat with diabetes. Not only that, Karela juice also cleanse blood and helps body fight infections. You will find a variety of Karela pills sold in most health/whole food grocery stores. You can eat pills if you cannot stand bitter taste of Karela Or bring some fresh Karela home from Indian/Chinese store, slice it and refrigerate it. Then, whenever you make a smoothie, just add 2-3 slices for fresh dose of blood purifying Karela.
In taste and cleansing properties, Karela is very close to Dandelion Greens. My husband do not like Dandelion Greens, so often I add few leaves of dandelion to our lunch smoothies for him. But he is a super fan of Karela dishes. Not raw, but cooked ones. I think, no one will like Karela raw unless you mask its bitter taste some how.
This is how I make medicinal raw Karela Juice - mix juice of one raw washed Karela with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt. Even though this concoction will have lesser bitterness, I suggest to not taste it and just drink like you would drink medicine.
In different parts of India, Karela is cooked different way. In my home town, Karela is cooked with lots of spices and potatoes Or it is stuffed with spices mixture for delicious main course side.
The recipe I am sharing with you is my take on traditional, North Indian Karela Stir-fry. Most Karela dishes call for deep frying Karela but I stir fried it to keep the oil-content low. Also, added lemon and Nigella seeds to enhance taste and to deal with bitterness. I often make stuffed Karela at home too, but I like Karela stir fry for less oil usage and more pronounced Karela taste. This Karela stir fry is not crispy like usual Karela recipes. It has mild tangy and spicy flavor. Mix Karela Stir-fry with some steamed rice if you do not prefer Ramen noodles.
Often in India, we serve Karela Stir-Fry on the side with lentil curries, yogurt and rice in main course. If you planning to serve Karela traditional way. I have few delicious accompaniment recipes listed in suggestions below which will make your Karela Stir-Fry star of the dinner table.
Karela is easily available in summer season. I will share few more delicious Karela recipes with you this summer because I am all set to feed lots of Karela to my husband all summer. Wish me luck and enjoy Karela Potato Stir-Fry with Ramen noodles :)
Bitter Melon Stir-Fry can also be served with:
Indian Bitter Melon (Karela) and Potato Stir Fry
- 8-10 Karela (Bitter Melon) (peeled and sliced)
- 2 Potatoes (2 medium size or 1 large gold potato)
- 1/2 tsp Nigella Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Canola Oil
- 1/4 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Powder
- 1 tbsp Lemon (lemon juice)
- 1/2 tsp Salt (adjust per taste, plus extra for curing bitter melon)
- 1 Shallot Onions (small onion, thin round slices)
- 2 Garlic (garlic cloves, fine diced)
- 1/2 tbsp Mustard Seeds (optional)
- 1 tbsp Sugar (optional, but recommended for sweet-sour bite)
1. Cure Karela - Wash and peel skin of Karela (biter melon) and slice it into thin round slices.2. Add Karela slices into a bowl, sprinkle 1/2 tbsp salt.
3. Mix with hand to distribute salt all over. Leave covered on kitchen counter for 10-20 minutes. Salt will take out bitterness from Karela.4. Squeeze Karela to get red if water and salt. Water is released from Karela due to addition of salt and when you remove water, bitterness also goes away with it. Additional Notes: At this stage you can freeze a portion to Karela to use later. This will save you time from working on curing again and you cook Karela in less time next time.
5. Cook - Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and let'em sputter for 30 seconds. Now add garlic, cumin seeds and onion and saute until onion are soft. about 2 mins.6. Add sliced potatoes, karela slices and all the spices mentioned in ingredients list. Mix well.
7. Cook on high heat for 3 minutes stirring continuously. The reduce heat and cover the pan to cook for another 5-8 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender and Karela are little brown on the sides. Add lemon juice, sugar (if using), taste and adjust salt. Mix well and remove from heat.8. Serve hot with Ramen noodles or steamed rice. Or make lentils and raita recipes from accompaniments for a complete traditional Indian meal.
Savita's Recipe Notes:On a side note, Ramen noodles seen in the picture are Chinese Instant Ramen Noodles available in most grocery stores or in Indian/Chinese stores. I boiled'em per package directions and then served topped with Bitter Melon Stir-fry.
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