Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Korola Masochism

করলা ভাজি
Stir-Fried Bitter Gourd

Stir-fried bitter gourd garnished with red chilli

I've moved to a neighbourhood with a Bangladeshi store around the corner! Unsurprisingly, I've been re-living all kinds of childhood food memories. I try not to buy perishables with lots of air miles, but I couldn't resist picking up a couple of fresh looking bitter gourds the other day. Bitter gourds, or korola, get their name from the very distinct bitter taste they retain even after cooking. Despite this, they are unreasonably popular back home, probably because the fruit has long been associated with alleged health benefits. I've heard people claim it does everything from curing an upset stomach to preserving healthy eyesight. 

I suspect the fruit I bought (photo in this post) is from India, as commonly available Bangladeshi varieties are quite small. They're eaten green and unripe, usually fried but also on occasion mashed or stuffed. Folks have various methods of dealing with the bitterness. The most common technique I've come across is to cook the gourd in lots of oil with plenty of onion and potato to distract from the bitter taste. On a similar principle, some people garnish the gourd with chopped coriander or squirt lime onto the dish to mask the taste with sour notes. Others soak the fruit in salt-water to counteract the bitterness, though I have never tried this myself. 

My family was quite masochistic when it came to korola though - we'd often have it without any onions or potatoes - fried in a bare minimum of oil, salt and turmeric.  The recipe below is a little more conventional, with onions and potatoes left in. Be as healthy or unhealthy as you want with the amount of oil. This makes a good side as part of a larger meal - it's the kind of everyday dish cooked alongside plain rice and simple chickenGiven my childhood hatred for vegetables, I find it hard to believe now that I liked this dish quite so much!

  • 2.00 whole bitter gourds (around 200.00 g)
  • 1.00 medium onion (around 90.00 g)
  • 1.00 medium potato (around 120.00 g)
  • 0.50 teaspoons of powdered turmeric
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh chilli, to taste

  • Finely slice the gourds, onion and potato, as photographed below
  • If using, slice the chillies (or just slit open)

Clockwise from the top, sliced potatoes
onions and korola

  • Heat some oil in a pan on medium heat, and add the onion
  • Fry the onion for a couple of minutes, then add the turmeric
  • Mix the turmeric and onions together, and fry for another couple of minutes. Add a little boiling water to the pan if the mixture begins to stick
  • Add the gourd and potato to the pan, along with salt to taste. Mix everything together thoroughly, so that all the ingredients are evenly stained with turmeric

Korola and potato stained with turmeric,
with red chilli just added 

  • Cook for a minute or so, before adding the sliced chilli 
  • Cover the pan, and turn the heat down to medium-low
  • Cook covered for a final 10 minutes, before taking off the hob and serving warm

Additional Info
There are many possible variations to this salt-and-turmeric-only recipe. Some people will add crushed garlic to their frying onions, and throw in ground coriander seeds along with the powdered turmeric. People also vary how long they cook the dish - the recipe above will make the veg fairly soft, but others will keep the dish on the hob much longer until it turns to mush. On the flip side, some folks practically deep fry the gourd till it's crunchy! 

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