Monday, September 27, 2010

Sweet, Sour, Spicy Karela Fry

Karelas are bitter. Some more so than others. Normally, in India, at least, things that taste awful, especially bitter things like Neem leaves, supposedly do you a lot of good. With this in mind, every good Indian mother cooks some Karela now and then, if not for the welfare of her family then out of sheer sadism.

By കാക്കര (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, my mom felt she had a lot of things to be bitter about, or maybe it was just the way we perceived her but she cooked our karelas in such a way that it was positively wicked rather than “good for you” awful. As a matter of fact, my husband swears he got to love this abomination only after we met and I seduced him with a dish of this ugly green vegetable. My son still refuses to have any but then he is one of those who think that vegetables are merely there to provide fiber.

Anyway, the recipe is fairly simple:
Sweet, Sour, Spicy Karela Fry
3 small karelas
2 medium sized onions

For soaking:
A small lime sized ball of tamarind
Loads of oil
For tempering:
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp grated jaggery
Chop the karelas into thin roundels. De-seed, if possible, although a few seeds add a delightful crunch.

Soak the roundels in water to which you have added the tamarind (squeeze the tamarind a bit to make the water sour) for as long or as little as you desire.

Drain the roundels well (to avoid spluttering – both you and the oil - when they hit the hot oil) and deep fry them in hot oil. 

Add a few roundels at a time if you are more patient than I to achieve uniformly browned but not burnt roundels. 

Drain them and keep them aside.

Chop the onions – not too fine. 

Heat a wee bit of oil-maybe a couple of tbsps? 

Add the cumin and when it has spluttered enough, add the onions. What do I mean by enough? That depends - some like them to get almost charred (I know my good man does!) and some, like me, prefer that they just barely cease to splutter. 

Fry the onions well. Again, you might prefer them to just get translucent or, on the other hand, maybe you like them well-browned. 

Add the karela roundels and the chili powder, salt (Don’t tell me I have to tell you how much! Okay, about ½ a tsp?), turmeric, and, finally, the grated jaggery

If all this is too complicated, just add some lime juice for the sour and some sugar for the sweet.

Serve with hot white rice or puris or chapattis.

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