Bharwa To Gojju, 8 Karela Recipes From Across India You Must Try
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Think about bitter gourd or Karela and most people are inevitably going to make a face. After all, it is only a handful of people who truly enjoy the taste and flavours of bitter Karela. And yet, every regional cuisine from across India has at least one traditional Karela recipe in its repertoire. These are well-loved dishes that are cooked at homes and served at eateries too, proving that Karela is indeed a big deal vegetable in Indian cuisine. 

One of the main reasons behind this widespread love for Karela dishes is thanks to the nutritional value of the vegetable, especially during summer months. Karela has a high water content, which can help keep you hydrated during hot summer days. It is also a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin C and various phytonutrients. Antioxidants help protect the body's cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals, which can be produced in higher amounts during sun exposure and heat. 

Video Credit: MasterChef Pankaj Bhadouria

What’s more, Karela Bitte is known for its cooling effect on the body. It is often used in traditional medicine systems to alleviate heat-related conditions. As a lot of traditional Indian recipes are derived from these ancient medicinal values, it is natural to have loads of Karela recipes from the length and breadth of India. Wondering what these recipes are? Here are some you should know more about. 

Karela Fry

A typical North Indian dish, Karela Fry is a simple and flavorful recipe that involves cooking thinly sliced bitter gourd in a mix of spices and oil until crispy and golden brown. Usually, only turmeric and salt are added to the dish, but in some parts of the country, more ingredients may be added to add some spice to the dish. A crispier version of Karela Fry, Karela Chips are more of a South Indian delight. 

Bharwa Karela

While we may call this dish Bharwa Karela for ease, this dish of stuffed bitter gourd is more of a pan-Indian dish. To make Bharwa Karela, the bitter gourd is typically slit lengthwise, deseeded, and filled with a mixture of spices, herbs, and sometimes other ingredients like onions, garlic, or minced meat. The stuffed bitter gourds are then either pan-fried or deep-fried until cooked and crispy. 

Ucche Chorchori

Bengali cuisine has plenty of Karela uses, especially in Shukto, but a dish from the cuisine that doesn’t usually get as much attention is Ucche Chorchori. This Bengali niramish or pure vegetarian dish is made with Karela cooked in a mustard paste gravy. Veggies like brinjal and potatoes are also often added to counter the bitterness of the Karela.  

Karela Batata Nu Shaak 

Originating in Gujarat, this Karela Batata Nu Shaak is a pure vegetarian dish that is also suitable for Jains. The no onion-no garlic dish is made with Karela and potatoes cooked with mild spices in oil. Some versions of this one is dry while others have a little bit of gravy, or the potatoes are mushy to ensure the dish can be easily relished with rotis.  

Kakarakaya Vepudu

A simple Karela dish from Andhra cuisine, this one adds a regional twist to the typical Karela Fry. Instead of cooking the Karela with one or two spices, this one utilizes a tempering of cumin seeds, curry leaves, mustard seeds and minced garlic. Once the Karela is cooked in this tempering, the dish is finished off with tamarind paste, coconut and jaggery.  

Karela Kadhi

Perfect for summers, Karela Kadhi is a much-loved dish in North and Western India. Usually, the Karela are fried and added at the last minute to the yoghurt and gram flour-based Kadhi. This ensures that the bitterness of the Karela isn’t too unbearable, while also ensuring that you get its nutritional benefits too. 

Karot Akhabi Kanghou

Originating in Manipur, this regional Karela dish is crispy, crunchy and delightful even for those who don’t love the veggie’s bitterness. The Karela slices are first deep fried to make this dish, and then garlic, onions, chillies are also deep fried and mixed with the veggie—turning it into a dish that pairs brilliantly with dal and rice. 

Hagalakayi Gojju

Tart and slightly bitter, Hagalakayi Gojju is a dish between a pickle and a chutney from Karnataka. The Karela is finely chopped or sliced and cooked with curry leaves, mustard seeds, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, tamarind, jaggery and salt until you get a semi-dry mixture. This simple Karela Gojju can be stored for up to 10 days in a refrigerator!