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How to make a sweet ‘Bitter Gourd’ (Karela in hindi) curry.

September 15, 2014

Bitter Sweet Bitter Gourd/Karela

Bitter Gourd (‘Karela’ in Hindi and ‘Paavakkai’ in Tamil) is bitter to the core as the name suggests or rather scares. Yet it is supposedly very good for diabetics and for those in pre-diabetics stage (for prevention over cure) as per Ayurveda. One can simply boil the karela in water, distill and cool and have it for effective use. I prefer to buy Karela chips every week which is palatable to even my rebellious son. Other times like once a fortnight I make it a point to do the vegetable right in my kitchen in some form. I am giving here an easy and delightful way of making the bitter gourd/karela/paavakkai, tasty and lipsmackingly yum, that even kids will ask for more.

*Note: This is a sweet and sour and hot version of the karela so not advisable for diabetics.


Bitter Gourd/Karela/Paavakkai – 250/300 gms

Imli/Tamarind – a little

Red chili powder – 2 tsp

Dhania/coriander seeds powder – 2 tsp

Turmeric powder a pinch

Salt to taste


Jaggery (Gur) – 100 gms or more if you desire. Palm Jaggery preferably.

Oil – 1 tbsp

For tempering: half a tsp of mustard and cumin seeds

For Garnishing: curry leaves (optional)


1. Soak the tamarind/imli in warm water for 30 min and squeeze out the extract. Set aside.

2. Rinse and clean the bitter-gourd/karela, scooping out the inner seeds and slicing the vegetable in concentric rings.

3. Powder the jaggery fine and keep aside.

3. Heat a wok/karai/shallow pan and add oil to it.

4. When the oil is hot enough, add the mustard and cumin seeds for tempering and wait for them to splutter.

5. Add the chopped bitter gourd/karela next and saute.

6. Add the red chili powder, dhania powder, turmeric powder and salt and stir well. Add the tamarind juice/extract and a little water if required, and let it cook with lid closed for a minute or two.

7. Remove the lid and add the jaggery finally and mix well. The jaggery will melt and the molten form will give the karela/bitter gourd subzi the colour of caramel.

8. Keep stirring until you get the required consistency.

9. Switch off the flame.

10. Serve as subzi with roti/parathas/rice anything. This quantum will serve about 2. One of the healthiest native vegetables we have around is bitter gourd or karela. It is important to add this great and inexpensive vegetable with immense medicinal properties to our diet atleast once a fortnight or if possible even weekly. The jaggery (gur) can be substituted with palm jaggery. The jaggery lends a curious twist to the otherwise bitter karela and gives it also a rich texture and aroma. The imi/tamarind gives the dish a tangy hint. Very interesting recipe. The bitterness of the karela is totally offset by the jaggery or substantially otherwise. Those who have a sweet tooth will love this dish!

During Tamil New Year/Vishu, we always make bitter-sweet-sour-hot recipes with mangoes (for sour taste), jaggery (for sweetness). Veppam (neem) (for bitterness) (in fact we make ‘veppampoo rasam’ – a kind of watery soupy imli-tamarind stew with the neem flowers) etc. This is to remind ourselves that life will not be the same all the time. That it is normal to have all the 4 ‘rasas’ in our life – like sadness, happiness, anger, disappointment etc. We start the new year preparing ourselves mentally for what lies ahead – good or bad.


From → Vegetarian

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