Sunday, August 17, 2014

Simple pleasures of life: bitter gourds in my balcony

You either love it or hate it - there cannot be an in-between thing about  karela or bitter gourds. Oh! how ardently I love this humble and versatile vegetable...I'd certainly like to know if there are many self-confessed karela admirers like me. When the karela creeper started growing and flowering in my balcony it only added to my excitement as I saw myself graduating from growing curry leaves, chillies, dhania and methi to a proper full-fledged vegetable, that too, something that's my eternal favourite.

I should say, I'm lucky to be born in a family of karela lovers though I can't say the same thing about the later entrants to my family and some of my friends. A simple and fulfilling meal for a me would be the deadly combination of vegetable sambar and karela fry with hot rice. Or, on a rainy day, there's nothing like stuffed karelas with hot rice or roti, especially my mother's recipe:) And what about the karela powder that's available in some of the swagruha's simply divine when combined with rice.

Karela is not something that is commonly found in the menus of restaurants and star hotels, but you may find them in small eateries that serve home-made type of food, rarely though! Well, it may not as delightful as bhindi/okra or brinjal/aubergine for a chef to innovate and scale the levels of gastronomy. But, it's high time they gave it a try! It may not be as challenging as trying a sweet dish with karela (karela kheer to be more precise) as it is mandatorily expected from the students in hotel management and catering courses.

Devoid of a fancy name like aubergine or okra, karela or kakarakaya or hagalakayi is deep-rooted in our traditional cooking with loads of recipes that appear at the click of Google. I'm sure every region in our country has its own special way of cooking it, be it the karela fry, stuffed karela and gravy varieties like pulusu and gojju. What I don't like is people complaining about its bitterness. Just go back to the basics of ayurveda and refer to the primary tastes of food. Of course, something that tastes bitter takes long to get accepted unlike the sweet and the sour. It's nice to see that the veggie is gaining popularity as a remedy for diabetes - a dose of bitter that balances the excessive sweetness. The best thing about Karela is that it's not seasonal - though the best crop is available during the monsoons.

Monsoon or no monsoon, most of the time, the veggie shops and weekly markets sell karelas... go try it, your life may get more enriched and balanced with a bitter-sweet-sour tastes that lingers on to remind us about the actual experiences in life that are sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet and sometimes sour!

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