Monday, March 17, 2014

Karela chips - Bitter-Batter-Better!

- by Janaki Krishnan

The bitter gourd (karela) is an unpopular vegetable, but I love it. I cook it in many different ways to remove the bitterness and make it tasty. My favourite way of using karela is to make karela chips. I wait for summer, when karelas come to the market in large quantities.
Karela being sold in Matunga Market
I buy three kilos minimum (two daughters + me). Since I have a vegetable vendor at my doorstep, I get them early in the morning, even before breakfast. All through breakfast, the karelas sit on my kitchen counter, dominating the space, calling out for attention!

As soon as breakfast is over, I begin the process of making them. First they have to be washed. Then any ripe ones are to be separated. The seeds of the ripe ones can be planted, and will grow into a beautiful creeper. We have a creeper growing nicely in our verandah.
Karela creeper in my verandah
The first step in making chips is to cut the karelas into round slices.
At the chopping board - the slices don't have to be very thin.
Place the slices in a thick bottomed broad vessel. Add 3 tablespoons of salt to the slices and let it rest. After an hour and a half, you will see that the karelas have released their liquid, and you have a salty liquid at the bottom of the vessel.

Transfer this liquid into a smaller vessel and add tamarind to it. You will need lots of tamarind, around the size of three lemons. After 15 minutes of soaking in the liquid, the tamarind will soften and you can extract the pulp. To this salty-sour mixture, add half a table-spoon of asafoetida and turmeric, and one and half tablespoons of red chilli powder.

Pour this liquid on the karelas in large vessel, and mix the karelas in this liquid thoroughly. Add half a glass of water.
After this, it is time to semi-cook the karela. This is a tricky process, as you need to ensure that all the slices in the vessel get uniformly cooked. You need to either turn over the slices gently with a spatuala, or shake the vessel in a circular upward movement (like you would do with a sieve) to move the slices around. You have to do this repeatedly to ensure all the slices are evenly cooked.

Once the green colour changes (it is semi-cooked), drain the water. Do not throw away the liquid, because it may be necessary to use it later.
Here is how it looks after it is semi-cooked and laid out to dry on a moram (sieve):
Before you put it on the sieve to dry, taste and see if the salt and chilli are adequate. At this stage the chilli taste should be more dominant, since it will become more salty when it dries. Add more chilli or salt if necessary after tasting. If you find the taste bitter then you can do another round of soaking in the tamarind solution.

Place the sieve in a sunny area and dry for 2 days. Taste it at the end of the first day's drying process. If you want to make changes to it, you can again put it in the tamarind solution, and then dry it again.

Once it dries, then it can be fried in oil and made into chips. Perfect with dahi-rice or with rasam-rice! You can also store it for future use, in a dry air-tight container.


Haddock said...

One of the vegetables I like. Karela Chips are not that bitter. We make curry with stuffed Karela.
The light green variety is supposed to be less bitter.

Anonymous said...

Yummy! Will try It next time info buy Karela from Indian store.

Ananva said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing this recipe.

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Jaya said...

I love your recipes and the way you describe them. Thank you for the lovely articles.

keshava shukla said...

Thanks for sharing with us

Anonymous said...

Oh, I will try this when I see good keralas at the market here in NYC, and will also try to grow a creeper from the seeds! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Do we use the same tamarind --salt water or prepare a new concoction If the slices are too bitter or need more spice?
Deepa, thank you for introducing your mom and this wonderful blog.