Mamta's Kitchen

Karela Bitter Gourd Bhaji/Sabji With Lemon Juice

Karela Ki Sabji

Reeta Kumar

Note: This easy recipe comes from my younger sister Reeta.

Bitter Gourd or Bitter melon or Karela fruit, botanical name Momordica charantia, is a tropical vegetable, very popular in India and China. Chinese Karela looks less spiky than the Indian one, it is lighter in colour and it is perhaps a little less bitter.

This dish freezes well. I freeze it in serving portion sizes for us, in zip-lock bags or small plastic containers or even small jam jars. I never buy jars, they are the empty ones from whatever I have used up. Karelas are eaten in small quantity, rather like a pickle and they are an acquired taste, you either love them or hate them! Serves 4

Karela has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Karela juice is excellent for diabetics, because it contains high doses of "plant insulin", as a skin tonic/ It is good for treating itching, rash, acne, boils, scabies, ringworm and psoriasis. For medicinal purpose, it is best to have juice of raw karela, which is not easy to drink, as it is extremely bitter. When cooking, other souring agents are usually added, in order to remove the bitterness. In north India, this means raw mangoes, fresh or dried. In other areas, tamarind and lemons are used.


  • 2-4 fresh bitter gourds or karela (they vary greatly in size, so approximately 500 gm.), washed and thickly sliced

  • 2 tbsp. mustard oil

  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds or jeera

  • A good pinch of asafoetida or hing (optional)

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

  • 1/2 tbsp. turmeric (huldi) powder

  • 1 tbsp coriander (dhania) powder

  • 1 tsp. fennel (saunf) powder

  • Chilli powder to taste

  • Salt to taste

  • Juice of half a lemon or 1 tsp dry mango powder (amchoor)


  1. Place karela slices in a microwave suitable container, sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of water and steam for 6 minutes on full. Drain in a colander and keep aside.

  2. If you do not have a microwave, cook the karela slices as they are, they will just take a little longer to cook.

  3. Heat oil in a pot and add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder. When the seeds splutter, add onions and fry until soft. Do not overcook.

  4. Add karela slices, coriander powder, ground fennel, salt, chilli powder, turmeric, mix well and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring from time to time.

  5. Add lemon juice or mango powder (amchoor). Cook on low flame for 5 minutes or longer, until karela slices look shiny and slightly browned.

  6. Taste and adjust seasoning.

  7. Serve hot as part of a meal or on their own with freshly made Parathas.

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