Sweet and spicy bitter gourd/karela – Mangalorean style

I post most of my meals’ pictures on Instagram regularly (follow me). The picture of my dinner plate recently seemed to delight many people. I was asked the recipe of the bitter gourd dish in it, hence the post. “Kanchala ithnda yenchala unoli” – what my grandmother said (in Tulu) every time I pulled a face after learning it was this dish being made for lunch. Loosely translated – when there’s bitter gourd you can manage getting through a meal. Bitter gourd doesn’t have a good reputation because of its bitterness. But I’m glad to learn there are a number of takers like me who love it. However, I think I like it only the way mum or granny used to make it – sweet and spicy. So there’s bitterness from the vegetable, sweetness comes from jaggery and the heat from chillies. Jaggery is added generously so you actually taste the sweetness. I deseeded the chillies because I prefer its colour to its heat. And mind you, it was still hot.

I teamed this with tomato and shallots sambar using the sambar powder I made recently and loving so much. Along with this there was sweet pumpkin stir-fry and rice, of course.



3 servings

Prep time:

10 mins

Cooking time:

12 mins


Bitter gourd/karela – 3 medium sliced (first cut vertically and scoop out the pith and seeds)

Jaggery – 3 tbsp powdered (you might need to adjust according to the spice level. If it’s quite hot, add more jaggery)

Oil/ghee – 1 tbsp


Dried Kashmiri chillies – 4 big ones deseeded (adjust accordingly)

Cumin/jeera – 1.5 tsp

Coriander seeds – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Whole pepper – 1 tsp

Tamarind – 1 marble sized portion


Oil – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Curry leaves – 1 sprig


Wash and prep the bitter gourd. Keep aside.

Put all the ingredients with some water to make a paste in your blender and blitz away.

Heat the oil/ghee and saute the spice paste for a couple of minutes on medium heat.

Add the bitter gourd and a splash of water, along with salt.

Add the jaggery now and mix well.

Cook for 10 mins (depending on how thin the slices are).

Check for salt and adjust. Take off the heat once it’s cooked.

Now heat the oil for tempering. Once hot, add the mustard seeds.

After they have popped, add the curry leaves and let them splutter.

Now tip this into the bitter gourd dish.

Serve with rice or roti.

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