saunfia karele ...bitter guards infused with fennel...

 Bitter guards are not everybody's idea of tasty food . I love these bitters and even a boiled mash is one of my favorite vegetable side dishes and i can have it daily . But i like variety and a few of the concoctions are liked by the husband too who gets an immediate feeling of nausea at the sight of karela on the table. This one is usually greeted to karela lag rahai hai ...( looks like bitter guard isn't it? ) ... a few spoonfuls into the plate and he says why don't you make this kind of karela if you want me to eat it...he takes second helpings. As for me, I like my karela mash everyday all through the summers , great detox need i say that?

This bitter guard stir fry is made with a lot of fennel seeds and some chickpea flour to make the bitterness balanced . I never salt and wash the bitter guards before cooking as there will be a lot of nutrient loss that way. Adding some souring agent will make the bitter more flavorful in a balanced way. Tomatoes , amchoor and tamarind are good for balancing the bitters in this guard. Onion plays a good role for the same purpose too.

bitter guards 500 gm
onions 3-4 nos (250 gm)
fennel seeds 1 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tsp
whole dry red chillies 3-4 nos.
turmeric powder 2 tsp
black pepper powder 1 tsp
chickpea flour(besan) 1.5 tbsp or some more
amchoor powder 1-2 tsp as required
salt to taste
mustard oil 2-3 tbsp


Chop the onion finely and butter guards in small bits. Slitting the bitter guards in four and then chopping in small bits will be convenient.

Heat the mustard oil in a kadai and throw in the broken red chillies , and then fennel and cumin seeds. Wait till they splutter and add the chopped onion .

Mix well and stir fry the onions adding salt to taste so that they cook faster. Keep stirring till onions are just translucent and not browned.

Now add the chopped bitter guards , mix well and add the black pepper powder and turmeric powder too. keep stir frying till everything is well coated and the onions get lightly browned and bitter guards are soft and browned at the edges.
Add besan or chick pea flour and amchoor powder and mix well , keep turning and stirring till the flour is cooked and blended well. it makes the bitterness more balanced along with amchoor powder . The aroma of the finished subzi is pleasant with fennel and roasted besan dominating the top notes.

I would insist not to remove any seeds of the bitter guard as they are very nutrition packed just like the pumpkin seeds and provide a nice texture to the finished subzi.

The slowly caramelized onion in the dish also works for balancing the bitterness in the guards....those whole fennel seeds look great and taste great too...

Many people coat the bitter guard pieces in salt and then squeeze to remove the sap and thus bitterness from bitter guards . Removing the green puckered skin is also a norm in Indian kitchens ...both the things are wrong as all parts of bitter guards are edible and nutrition packed. If you feel like peeling off the precious green pericarp (outer fruit wall) and squeezing the sap out of it , you should think of cooking some other vegetable bitter guards with all it's bitterness is the right way to have this vegetable .

Think of enhancing the bitterness with some complementing ingredients...what do you think ?


  1. I remember my mother making a similar karela dish with caramelised onion without the besan. Your recipe reminds me of that. We dont get fresh karelas here to try this out.

  2. lovely pics and delicious and droolworthy bittergourd curry.
    indu srinivasan

  3. Healthy side for rice..

  4. Looks like a delicious way to cook karela.

  5. awesome pics...looks tasty as well..will try this soon..:)

  6. Wonderful pictures! Mouthwatering - I love the spices in this dish.

  7. Sangeeta if you love bitter gourds you will also love neem paata bhaaja and neem begun. My maid once made neem alu and it was yummy plus it used very less oil as the potatoes were boiled first. We also make a bora with bitter gourd leaves. I had a bountiful harvest of bitter gourds and the green canopy with beautiful yellow flowers were a lovely sight. And when the fruits ripened they were bright orange and burst open to reveal blood red seeds.


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