Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kalara Bhaja (Bitter Gourd) and Simple Salad

One vegetable that I have often seen to baffle non-Asians in the local grocery store is Kalara (Odiya word for Bitter Gourd). I have explained what this veggie is to a few confused souls myself. This is a bitter tasting veggie as the name says it! :) The wikipedia entry for the same is available here. The Odiya cuisine calls for a good combination of different things - within a recipe as well as in the entire menu. Having different tastes in a given meal just balances out the flavors. We have different preparations of this - crisp fries, roasted and crushed as well as a drink. If you drink it after boiling and mashing, keep a spoon of sugar handy! :)

As the Wikipedia entry for taste states "The sensation of taste can be categorized into five basic tastes: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami. "Umami" is originally the Japanese word for “meaty” or “savory”. Not surprisingly, it is characteristic of many oriental dishes.". Since this veggie is bitter, more so if it is not cooked crisp, it is not a favorite dish for hardly anyone. As a kid, I used to hate it! But note that the medicinal benefits of this dish is immense. It is good for diabetics and helps reduce blood sugar levels. My paternal grandpa "Dada" was diabetic, so whenever he was visiting, this was a regular in our house.

Let me divert a bit! Gosh, as I write this, so many memories come flooding about time spent with him and I am feeling so nostalgic about those good times. Long hours of Ludo games and chatting endlessly about everything under the Sun - he left us a few years back for heavenly abode. He was such an inspiration and always encouraging me to do better and be the "son" to my parents. He treated all his daughter-in-laws as his own daughter; think my Pisi was as comfortable talking to him as my mother. He was a progressive thinker opening schools and college in the village for the progress of the village. Hope I can someday live up to those ideals! Miss you, Dada, everyday - I will always think he is watching over and always there with me.

In the same note, I sure was lucky to be born to this family - feel even more intensely now knowing how prevalent "female foeticide" has been in India over the past decades. I think any girl born over the last 30-40 years and who has got a fair treatment in terms of opportunities and encouragement should be ever grateful to their parents for being high thinkers - to start with, you were not among the 3-crore girls that were aborted! This was recently brought into national attention by Aamir Khan Productions "Satyamev Jayate" program - a very well-researched program with information and statistics covering the entire spectrum of a given issue in 1.5 hours. They plan to cover a different topic every week - now, that is meaningful television which was kinda there in Indian television when I was growing up but not anymore. Is there any comparison between Udaan where they showed Kiran Bedi's story in contrast to the present day shows where the focus is on the woman crying all the time??

In that bitter note, let's move on to a literally bitter recipe! :)


Kalara - 5-6 medium to large
Rice flour - 3-4 tbsp
Salt - as per taste
Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp

Canola oil - few tbsps for shallow frying


Chop the Kalara into thin slices as shown in the pic.
Mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
Keep it aside for 10-15 mins.
Heat some oil for shallow frying the Kalara.
Use Medium heat. Get done cooking one side before turning it over to cook the other side.

Serve it hot while it is still crisp.
Enjoy with Rice\Chapatti.

We had ours this time with a simple Potato curry, Simple Salad (details below) and Paratha (Indian bread).

Simple Salad



Cucumber - 1
Tomato - 1
Onion - 1 medium
Green Chillis - 1-2 or more, as per taste
Note - You can increase\decrease the amount depending on taste and preference.

Chop everything into similar sliced long pieces.
Mix them together with 1/8 tsp sugar, salt as per taste and some Chat Masala. A little chilli powder can also be added.
To add sourness to the salad, you can add half-lemon's juice.
To make Raita, substitute lemon juice with a few tbsps of yogurt. We have Raita and Salad inter-changeably with dinner.

Maharastrian Misal

Maharastrian Kolhapuri Misal
For the first time, I had Maharastrian Misal (Kolhapuri, to be specific) made with home-made Kolhapuri Masala and Kala Masala. It was yummy! Thanks to my friend, Prajakta, for introducing me to this Maharastrian favorite. Like the mutton curry is one of the favorite Sunday traditions in Odiya house, I was told this is a Sunday brunch favorite in Kolhapur.


notyet100 said...

Platter looks delicious,even I luv crispy fried karela,,:)

Home Cooked Oriya Food said...

very nicely written post... took me back to my school days...

Follow foodie said...

Looks so good!

Jagruti said...

This veggie takes quite a bit of work to make it taste good for sure.

But this one simple recipe is my all time favorite..transports me back to the days it would be served with dalma, bhata, bharta and dahi salad.


Soumya Ranjan Panda said...

it tastes so good when coupled with chicken curry !

Happy Cook / Finla said...

I must admit bittergourd is not my favourite veg, way you prepared looks good.

Pragyan said...

@Notyet100 - Thank you - yes, it was a simple well-balanced platter.

@Somoo - Thanks! Brought back lot of emotions as I was writing it definitely!

@Follow foodie - Try it out - it is bitter, but not that bad!

@Jagruti - That's the combo I love too!

@Soumya - Another combo that works with Kalara bhaja! :) Thanks for coming by..

@Finla - lol - it is not mine either! :) But just eat it considering it's health benefits..and crispy and hot ones are easier to munch on! :)