I know I probably lost most of you at bitter gourd, and yes there is some bitterness when you eat these, but trust me this dish actually tastes really good.

Since cooking and eating at home is the new normal, and will probably stay like that for a while, on every trip to the wet market, we’ve been trying to pick up vegetables that we don’t normally cook with.

Karli/karela or bitter gourd is one such vegetable. I’ve had dishes made with bitter gourd, grudgingly at best, but could never bring myself to cook with it. But on our last trip, bitter gourd or karli/karela made their way home. Truth be told, I forgot about them for a while. And only remembered I had them, when I was surfing one of my go-to sources for Marathi recipes, the YouTube channel Being Marathi. I was surfing for mango pickle recipes and lo and behold, a recipe for bharli karli (stuffed bitter gourd) popped up on the list of videos! The dish looked simple and the recipe for the stuffing looked particularly delicious. So finally I knew what I could make with the bitter gourds! Here’s the recipe

Ingredients (Recipe from Being Marathi)

  • 7-8 bitter gourds
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 4 to 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 inch ginger, chopped or 3/4 tsp ginger paste
  • 2-3 large garlic pods, crushed or 3/4 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp peanut powder
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 3/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • salt & sugar to taste
  • vegetable oil for cooking

Method:

Heat a little oil, and fry the cloves and bay leaf for 1 min. Add the cumin seeds seeds and let them pop. Now add the ginger & garlic paste, onions and green chillies and let it cook till the onions turn light brown. Add the coconut, coriander, turmeric, peanut powder, 3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar and mix everything well. Finally squeeze the lime into the mixture and stir again.

Let the filling cool and then grind it into a paste in the mixer. You can use a little water but don’t make the paste too watery.

Wash the bitter gourds, and slice the stems off. Create a slit in each gourd on one side. Using a small spoon, remove the seeds to create a hollow pocket. The original recipe did not do this, but some of the gourds I was using had fairly large seeds, which would not taste very pleasant. So I decided to scoop them out. Be gentle when doing this so you do not end up splitting the bitter gourds into half.

Once all the seeds have been removed, wash the insides and drain well. Using a spoon, gently add the filling inside the bitter gourd. You may need to pry the gourds open with your fingers, to allow more filling to go inside. Don’t overstuff the gourds, because later as you try to handle them during cooking, the filling can spill out.

Now take a large flat pan, and add enough oil to cover the base of the pan and create a thin layer of oil. Heat it, and once hot, lower to a medium heat. Place the gourds clockwise in the pan, with the filling side up. Allow the gourds to cook for a good 15-20 mins or even a little longer, till the outer skin starts to soften. And while they are cooking, turn the gourds around every 4-5 mins so that all the sides get cooked. When you turn the gourds with the filling side down into the oil, some of the filling may come out and stick to the base of the pan. Ideally don’t overfill the gourds, so not much spills out. But guess what – as the filling cooks, it will become crisp and actually tastes really good on its own!

You can use a knife to poke and check when they are done. I had to stand them on their bases next to each other, so that the hard ends would also get cooked. Things they don’t show you in recipe videos!! The other tip I have is that it was easier to handle the gourds with a large spoon and your fingers rather than using tongs. Every time I tried to move the gourds with my tongs, they ended up pressing the gourd and releasing more filling.

Once the gourds are all done, remove them out on a plate. Drizzle a few sesame seeds and chopped coriander and serve. We ate these with some chapatis, a koshimbir (salad) and another vegetable. The gourds do have a slight bitterness, but because mine were jam packed with the filling, the overall combination was really good.

Delighted with my first attempt at cooking karli or biter gourds. We also make a bharli vangi (stuffed eggplants) dish, for which my mom’s recipe uses goda masala (black masala). But I can imagine this filling working with eggplants also. Shall be my next trial!

Priya

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