On a particularly sultry morning, when the aching feet have straddled along to run a gazillion errands and ended up bringing one to the Indian grocer’s, one would assume that the find of the day would be a carton of kesar mangoes, one or two to be blended later with some chilled yogurt for the quintessential post-lunch treat, mango lassi. Little would it occur to one that a nappy, knobby, green vegetable would manifest in one’s field of vision, virtually groveling to be picked up and primed, to help cleanse and invigorate the worn palates in the family. Of course one has to gear up to take in the wrinkle-nosed sneers and gag-backed bleats from the bitter-gourd bashers before endeavoring to turn their whimpers into cheers. No gravy preparation, nor stuffed and fried side has been able to charm them in the past, to upchuck their collective grimace into a smile line. So, one shrugs and resigns to the fact that the culinary instincts have seldom let one down..but for them to strike, one still needs that mango lassi for rejuvenation. It is not long after the lassi has been guzzled down that the idea appears, floating on an invisible magic platter before landing on the mind, or the microwave, to be sure..replete, as one is wont to often envision, with pixie dust falling into smithereens around one. And why not, considering how many times one is known to be crowned “Kitchen Queen.”
Savory Bittergourd Bites
- 6 Large bitter gourd/karela
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- Pinch of asafoetida
- 2 Large onions, sliced thin and small
- 1 Teaspoon sugar, divided
- Salt to taste
- ½ Teaspoon red chilli powder/cayenne
- ½ Teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ Teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 Teaspoon fennel powder
- 1 Tomato chopped
- ½ Teaspoon aamchur or squeeze of lime juice
- Pinch of garam masala
To prepare the karela, lightly scrape the skin using a vegetable peeler and trim the ends. Slice the gourds and then toss with a tablespoon of salt. Set aside to drain in a sieve for at least half an hour and upto 2-3 hours.
Discard the drained vegetable juices and rinse the karela to remove the extra salt. Drain, squeeze lightly and dry. Then, drizzle with a little oil, toss and spread the slices on a plate. Microwave for about 10 minutes or until the karela is browned and crisp.
Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick frying pan. Sprinkle the asafoetida and then add the sliced onions and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Cook on medium heat until the onions are dark brown and caramelized. Now add the salt, chilli, coriander, cumin and fennel powders. Fry for a minute and then add the tomato. Cook on medium heat until the tomato starts breaking down. Tip in the microwaved karela slices. Toss everything together for a minute, adding the rest of the sugar and a splash of water if it looks too dry. Finish with aamchur and garam masala. Serve hot.