Ampalaya is a fruit belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family and is common to several parts of Asia andAfrica. Called by several local names such as bitter gourd, bitter lemon, karela korola, pavakya, and pare, palayam, ampalaya is cooked before consuming.
It is cooked differently in different parts of the world; in India, for example, it is prepared in combination with potatoes, spices, coconut chutney, and yoghurt. Many people relish it after it is stir-fried, boiled, or stuffed. Here, we are going to explain how an ampalaya is prepared. We shall be using the word ’karela’ for it throughout this text.
A few bitter gourds
3-4 teaspoonful of mustard oil/groundnut oil
Salt to taste
A teaspoonful of turmeric powder
Finely chopped ginger and garlic
Two medium sized onions
A few fennel seeds
½ cumin powder
¼ coriander powder
10-20 gms jaggery
½ chilli powder
¼ fenugreek seeds
¼ garam masala
¼ amchur powder (dried mango powder)
Soaking in Salt:
Rub off the outer skin of karelas by knife. Do not throw this scrape as it will be used later. Now, sprinkle salt over their outer surface; you can also keep them in salted water. Wait for half an hour before squeezing them thoroughly to extract juice from them. This is done to lessen their bitterness. Slit karelas in the middle so that they can later be filled with spices.
In a frying pan, heat mustard oil. Chop the onions finely and add them to the oil. Saute until they start turning light brown. To it add ginger and garlic paste or chopped ones. Stir the mixture; add red chilli powder and fennel seeds. When the seeds start spluttering, lower the gas flame. Add salt to taste.
Add the remaining ingredients including cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, and amchur. If the mixture is too dry, sprinkle some water over it. After a minute or two of stirring, remove the mixture from the flame.
Now, take each karela one by one and fill its belly with the mixture prepared above. In order to avoid the stuffing from falling out, tie each karela with a thread around it.
Again heat some oil in a pan. Put stuffed karelas one by one in it. You can also add a small amount of water to avoid karelas from sticking to pan by overheating. Add to them the skin you peeled off in the very first step.
Cook karelas for about 10-12 minutes on medium flame. Allow both sides to cook well. Serve with hot paranthas and yoghurt.
Instead of stuffing karelas with spices, minced meat can also be used. Add minced meat along with all the spices mentioned above in oil. Cook for about 5-6 minutes. A few vegetables can also be added to make the stuffed dish more palatable. Fry after stuffing the minced meat till karelas are all well cooked.
Cooking Method -2
This method is slightly different from the earlier one. Instead of soaking karelas in water after peeling, soak them in lemon juice. Keep aside for 30 minutes before warding off their bitterness. .
As in the earlier method, make an incision in karelas and remove the seeds if any. Prepare the stuffing by mixing the chickpea flour, garlic & ginger paste, turmeric powder, and salt. Also add coriander and cumin seeds. Finely grind all these to make a fine paste. Stuff karelas with this mixture and cook in oil.
There is another alternative to these methods. Instead of stuffing karelas with the spices, they can be cooked along with the mixture. If the karelas are too long, chop them into pieces. The lemon juice can be added after the vegetable is cooked.
Now let’s explain about Paavakkai pitlai, a South Indian dish made of karelas. The basic ingredients are all same as in above cooking methods. The things that you require in addition are toor dal, urad dal,chana dal, coconut pieces and tamarind.
Boil tamarind in water and remove its seeds by sieving it. Cook toor dal in water. Also boil small pieces of karelas in water, salt, and turmeric. Roast some fenugreek, coriander, and cumin seeds in a frying pan. To this mixture, add boiled gourds. Now add the tamarind juice; allow cooking for a minute or two.
Roast chana dal and urad dal with red chillies. Also roast pieces of coconut separately. Add this roasted mixture along with boiled toor dal. Add water to make the gravy. Saute with mustard seeds. The dish is ready to be served with rice.
This very method involves preparing Pavakkaai Puli which is eaten in the form of karela curry. Remove the seeds of the karelas; cut into small rounded shapes. Chop some onions also. Add both of these to heated oil. Roast until both the karelas and onions get cooked a bit.
Add coriander and cumin powders along with tamarind and salt. To make the curry, add water to the mixture and lower the gas flame. After karelas are cooked, add tamarind juice prepared from boiling it. To add to the taste, you can also add roasted mustard seeds.
You can also relish karelas in the form of pakodas. Prepare a mixture of chickpea flour (1/2 cup), two tablespoons of rice flour, salt (to taste), and chilli powder. Slice round pieces of karela and put them in the mixture. Keep it aside for about half an hour so that karelas leave some water; do not add extra water to the mixture. Now, heat oil in a pan. Add karela slices one by one in order to fry them. Cook well and serve hot with a cup of tea or coffee.
Cooking Method -5
All the recipes explained above tasted somewhat bitter. Now, let’s try something that is sweet. Roast some onions and spices in a frying pan. Add karela pieces to it. When they start turning brown, add half a cup of jaggery. Cook until jaggery comes to a boil and eventually thickens to make a paste.
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