Uchhe Chorchori ~ Bengali Stir-Fry Recipe for Bitter Gourd/Karela


Do you enjoy eating bitter vegetables? Bengalis believe that lunch which is traditionally the main meal of the day, should be started with something teeto or bitter like neem leaves or bitter gourd. These acerbic tasting seasonal veggies are not only good sources of vital vitamins and nutrients, but also cleanses up our palates and opens up our senses for the rest of the meal. Didn't I tell you we take food and partaking of the said food very seriously? 

We eat bitter gourd known as karela in Hindi, karola in Bengali and another local variety which is slightly smaller in size called uchee in a variety of ways. Sometimes we make bhaja/fry them or  make a chorchori which is a Bengali style quick stir-fry or simply boil the veggie and eat it with a sprinkling of salt and mustard oil. It is also an essential ingredient  in the unique Bengali  vegetable stew ~ Shukto. Bengalis can't imagine their beloved Shukto without the distinct bitter taste of karela.

Here's the recipe for a quick stir-fry that I often make for my husband. He loves the vegetable, it's sharp bitter taste, while I am yet to warm up to it. 


Ingredients:

(Serves two people as the first course with rice for lunch)
1. 2 medium sized karela
2. 1 dry red chilli
3. 1/3 teaspoon of Bengali 5 spice mix/Paanch Phoron
4. Half a teaspoon of turmeric
5. A pinch of red chilli powder
6. Salt to taste
7. 2 teaspoons of mustard oil

How to make the stir-fry:

1. Wash the bitter gourd and make thin, round slices
2. In a frying pan, add one teaspoon of mustard oil, wait till the mustard oil reaches smoking point, takes a couple of minutes
3. Reduce the heat to low, add the Bengali 5 spices and the dry red chilli, snapped in half, let them crackle for a minute or so
4. Add the pieces of karela, the turmeric and the red chilli powder
5. Mix everything well, increase the heat to medium and fry for 4 to 5 minutes till the slices of bitter gourd turn pale green in colour
6. Add the salt and enough water to submerge the slices, cover and let the vegetable cook for 5 to 6 minutes
7. Remove the cover, give it a stir, adjust the seasoning, check if the karela has cooked through, turn off the heat
8. Add the remaining one teaspoon of mustard oil on the cooked veggie and mix well. The raw mustard oil adds a nice aroma to the dish. 
9. Serve this dish hot with steamed rice as the first course of lunch


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