As I typed the translation in english for Achaari Karela, I realized that this dish packed in almost all the flavors you can find in food – spicy, tangy and bitter. Flavors of life? Probably our thoughts too?
Before I begin to sound philosophical, the last few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions. A high as India lifted that world cup after 28 long years – the euphoria, the amazement and the exhaustion from staying up 9 long but nail biting hours to watch match after match. I think I had what I may call “cricket jet lag” for lack of a better word. But it was all so worth it. I am a little late in celebrating that victory here at RKK, but the excitement still lingers. Jai Ho!
Then it’s been some low, a lull from travels and long hours that added to that jet lag, which sort of explains my silence and possibly that philosophical streak:)
But it has been good to see Girish back in the kitchen after months. It probably stemmed from that euphoria of watching India live in Wankhede (that kept his spirits at a high and in getting back to cooking after ages. Either ways, it was a welcome break for all of us. Girish made this dish after trying it at Kiran’s in Houston. I’ve got to say that for a recipe that was derived half from hearsay (from Kiran herself:) and half observation, this was pretty darn good.
Fennel seeds – 3 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Ginger – 2 inch cut into thin strips
Aamchur (Dried mango powder) – 2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1-2 tsp; as needed depending on spice level
Salt to taste
Bitter melon – cut into 1/2 inch pieces; seeds removed if needed
Milk – 1 cup diluted in 1/2 cup water
Aam ka achaar or Mango pickle, Punjabi style (aachar panchrangi, found in Induan stores) – 2 tbsp
1. Cut the bittermelon into 1/2 inch pieces. You may remove the seeds if you don’t like the bitter taste of the melon. I retained some of it as it adds to the overall flavor, in my opinion.
2. Soak the pieces in a bowl of milk for upto 2 hours at least. This helps add some softness to the melons and also removes the overwhelming bitter taste.
3. Drain the milk after 2 hours, and keep the pieces aside.
4. Take some oil (about 1 tbsp) in a heavy bottomed vessel or kadhai, and after the oil is hot, add the fennel seeds. Saute for about a minute and then add the cumin seeds.
5. When you begin to get an aroma, in about another minute, add the ginger strips and saute again for a minute.
6. Now add the bittermelon pieces and mix well. Cook, covered on a medium low flame for about 10 minutes until the bittermelon is half cooked. This step takes time, as the melons may take some time to cook so you may need to keep watch amd cook a little longer if needed.
7. Now add some of the oil from the achaar, the aamchur powder and red chili powder and salt. Mix again and cook, covered for another 3-5 minutes.
8. Add the tbsp of achaar (mango pieces), mix and cook again for another 3 minutes. The bittermelon should be completely cooked by now and mixed well with the achaar.
9. Serve hot with hot rotis and/or rice and dal.