Mamta's Kitchen

Stuffed Bitter Gourd Bhaji/Sabji

Bharawa Karela

Mamta Gupta

Bitter Gourd or Carilla fruit is a tropical vegetable, botanical name Momordica charantia Linn Other names in India alone are; Karela, Kareli, Karala, Kerula, Uchchh, Kakara, Kaaya, Kura, Kurela-jangro, Karle, Pakal, Pavakkachedi, Pavakkayi, Hagala kayi, Karathay, Kaippa, Kaippavalli, Paval, Karavella, Sushavi. It is a very popular vegetable in India and China. It is an acquired taste, like chillies, and you either love or hate it. Chinese Karela looks less spiky than the Indian one and is perhaps a little less bitter.

It has been used in Ayurvediac medicine for centuries, it contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, B1 and B2 and vitamin C. Its juice is an excellent skin tonic and good for controlling itching, rash, acne, boils, scabies, ringworm and psoriasis. Eaten as a vegetable or its juice taken as a drink, helps to lower blood sugar in diabetics, because it contains high doses of "plant insulin". It is anti-pyretic (reduces fever). For medicinal purpose, it is best to have juice of raw karela, which is extremely bitter.

In this dish, karelas are stuffed with a delicious mix of spices and cooked slowly. They are eaten in small quantity, rather like a pickle. So, serve them sliced into 3-4 portions each, unless they are small karelas. Serves 4-6


  • 1 kg. karela (bitter-gourd), buy fresh and green looking ones, they have tenderer seeds.

  • 2 large green mangoes* (unripe, peeled and flesh removed from the stone

  • 2-3 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 4-5 green chillies

  • 3-4 tbs. mustard oil

  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds (sonf).

  • 1 tsp. chilli powder, more if you like it hot.

  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder

  • 2 tsp. coriander powder

  • 1 tsp. cumin powder

  • Salt to taste

  • *Green mangoes are available from indian/Gujrati grocers. If you can't find them, use the flesh of a very tart apple, grated. Tamarind paste is also a good substitute.


  1. To prepare the karela:

  2. Scrape the rough skin off gently, slit the side of each karela and scoop out the inside with a melon-baller or a scoop. If you have a long courgette scoop, you do not have to slit the sides. You can scoop the karelas hollow from one end.

  3. Discard the hard seeds and any ripe/pink looking pith, but save the tender one.

  4. Sprinkle with salt and keep aside for 2 hours to draw out bitter water. Then wash and stand vertically to drain out water.

  5. Making stuffing

  6. Grind the onions, mangoes, ginger, green chillies, scooped-out insides (tender seeds and pith) of the karelas, and all the spices, in a food processor.

  7. Divide the stuffing into as many portions as you have karelas.

  8. Stuff each karela with this mixture and loosely wrap around with sewing cotton.

  9. Place on an ovenproof tray or dish lined with aluminium foil (to save on washing up).

  10. Heat oil in a pan on medium fire.

  11. Pour it over the karelas and cook in a hot oven 200-250� C or 400-450� F, until nicely brown and almost crisp. If you do not have an oven, cook in a heavy bottomed wok or kadhai on low fire, turning them over occasionally.

  12. Serve hot or cold, as part of an Indian meal.


  • This dish freezes well and can be made in bulk.

  • It can be made quite hot as it is eaten in small quantities, almost like a pickle.

  • Also see: Imli wala Karela

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