Karela, or the Indian bitter melon, is an acquired taste. You may first reject it due to its harsh bitterness but once you learn to temper the bitterness and balance it with sweet flavors like sweet potato, jaggery, corn or paneer, that same bitterness becomes just another delicious layer of flavor added.
makes 6 small servings
5 medium sized around 4 inches long karela (approximately 1 pound)
juice from 2 lemons
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 Tbsp ghee
3 Tbsp ghee
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 cup minced red onion
finely minced seeds from inside of karela
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chickpea flour
1 cup paneer grated (or any other cheese)
2 Tbsp ginger purée
1 tsp minced serrano pepper
- Without cutting off the ends, peel the karela and make a lengthwise slit into each one. Scoop the insides out and set aside. Drizzle the karelas with lemon juice, sugar and salt. Let this mixture rest for an hour or up to 24 hours. Finely mince the seeds from the insides and set aside.
- Drain the karela, pat them dry and drizzle ghee over them. Lay them on a baking sheet pan and roast in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until the karela is soft and cooked through. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and let the karelas rest.
- Heat up the ghee and pop the cumin seeds. Immediately, add the red onion and minced karela seeds. Cook this mixture on low heat until it reduces and the onion is translucent and the seeds have softened. Add the black pepper, turmeric and salt. Next add the chickpea flour and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the flour darkens slightly. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Add grated paneer, minced serrano, & ginger purée. Adjust with a little more salt to taste.
- Fill each karela with the stuffing and place them on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350F oven for 20 minutes. Remove and serve them with a sweet chutney or a salad.