Karela. Bitter Gourd. The scourge of every Indian child’s dinner line-up and a vegetable that has the dubious honour of being one of the most despised – second maybe only to a slimy bhindi. But in its defence, ‘bitter’ is in the name, so at least you can’t cite false advertising when you’re confronted by the intense flavours it offers up. But like every vegetable that our mothers wearily forced us to eat, it has a plethora of health benefits that outweigh the few moments of sadness that may occur. 

From regulating blood sugar levels to reducing the effects of bad cholesterol and helping you lose weight it's an all-rounder. It’s also supercharged with 93% of our daily Vitamin C and 44% of our daily Vitamin A requirements. With the additional folates and potassium, the small but mighty Karela can also help improve your hair, skin and blood purity. 

Also Read: Karela Fry: This Crispy-Bitter South Indian Recipe Is A Must-Try

Unfortunately, health benefits aren’t always convincing when you’re presented with a plate of green but luckily there are a few ways to remove as much of the unpleasant flavour as possible from the vegetable before cooking it. A lot of the bitterness resides in the skin and seeds so start by peeling off the rough exterior until it's smooth, and scooping out the seeds.

Next, rub salt into the flesh to draw out the bitter juices and leave it for 20-30 minutes before rinsing off the salt. Another easy flavour enhancer is using sugar or jaggery which can help counteract the bitterness in the dish. You could even soak it in a sugar and vinegar solution to really pull out every last drop of bitterness. 

If all that fails, then there’s still one foolproof method to get a delicious karela dish, and that’s by frying it. It’s a universal truth that everything tastes better fried and karela is no exception. But the catch is that deep frying releases a lot of unhealthy trans fats from the oil, and if you’re eating karela for health reasons, this could seem counterproductive. An air fryer is a simple solution here, where you can get delicious crispy karela chips with little to no effort and difficult cleaning up.

Ingredients

  • 250 grams bitter gourd, chopped and deseeded 
  • 2 cups hot water
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup rice flour
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
  • ⅛ tsp turmeric powder
  • ⅛ tsp asafoetida
  • 2 tbsp jaggery powdered
  • 3 to 4 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp oil

Method

Prepare Your Karela

  • Wash the bitter gourd and trim the edges. Cut them into small rounds (less than ¼ inch in thickness) and remove the seeds and the flesh from the centre.
  • Now soak this chopped bitter gourd in 2 cups of hot water for about 30 minutes. Then drain the water and pat the bitter gourd dry.

Batter

  • In a mixing bowl, add the chickpea flour, rice flour, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, asafoetida, and jaggery.
  • Make a thick batter by adding 2 to 3 tbsps of water.
  • Add the chopped bitter gourd to this prepared paste and mix well. Make sure you evenly mix and coat the flour on the bitter gourd.

Frying

  • Preheat your air fryer as per the unit's instructions.
  • After preheating, place the coated bitter gourd in the air fryer tray. Do not keep one on top of the other. Air fry them in batches, and that’s what I did.
  • Air fry for 8 minutes at 190℃ and remove it from the air fryer tray and transfer it to a plate.
  • Add 2 tsp of oil to the bitter gourd and mix well. Now place the entire bitter gourd into the air fryer tray. Spread it evenly. As they are already pre-cooked, it’s ok if some bitter gourds are stacked up.
  • Now fry the bitter gourd for 6 minutes at 200℃. 
  • Remove the air fryer tray, shake them once, and air a final time for 4 to 6 minutes at 200℃.