Hagalkai Gojju/ Sauteed Bitter Gourd

In the context of my Indian sensibilities, one thing that rather obfuscates me is the usage of 'flavour'. In the American food channels, 'salt' adds flavour to food. In Indian contexts, salt adds 'Roochi' -taste and there are five types of 'roochi'- salt, bitter,sweet, sour and pungent. So if salt is a flavour, then all those 'roochi' must also be classified as 'flavour' I am not really sure.

Anyway, 'bitter' is an important part of Indian cooking. Fenugreek seeds, Mustard, Bitter gourd and fenugreek greens are very important part of our regular fare. I have not often noticed 'bitter' in the Continental/American cuisine. But we love our bitters, don't we. Of all these bitter gourd is something i have always loved. That is one vegetable that required some skill to be palatable. Apart from what my mom makes, there are two bitter gourd dishes that lingers in my memories. One is again the Sabarmati Hostel mess. In our mess, our cooks used to prepared Aloo-karela in winters. I loved it. I remember, on such days, I would have eaten all the karela part, asking for second helping ;even as most of the hostel residents would ask for more 'aloo' while I asked for more 'Karela'.
The other dish is something i ate just once. Back in the 1990s when my father was posted in Amritsar, we were invited for a dinner party and there, our gracious hostess served us this dish. She did not tell us outright that it was 'karela' least we refuse to try it. It looked much like a pakoda. It was truly delicious. I have never had something like that ever again. It was basically seasoned bitter gourd stuffed with spicy potato filling and deep fried till sort of deep brown. We never got to know the recipe. Our hostess spoke only Punjabi, we spoke no Punjabi..I will need to try it sometime. But, for now, it is my mother's standard 'Hagal Kai gojju'

You will need

Bitter gourd 2 (about 1/2 lb)
Jaggery grated 3 tbsp
Sambar powder/ Huli Pudi 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Tamarind paste 1 tsp
oil 2 tbsp

  • Petite dice bitter gourd. Heat oil in a pan and toss the diced bitter gourd, saute till soft.
  • Combine the Sambar powder, grated jaggery and tamarind paste in a small mixing bowl along with about 1/2 cup of water.
  • Pour the Sambar powder mixture onto the bitter gourd. Simmer.
  • Adjust salt. The consistency can be adjusted as desirable. Mom makes it rather dry, so i follow her. Mine is also pickle like in consistency, almost no gravy. If gravy is desired, just go ahead add a little more water.
  • Serve hot with rice... enjoy


Dr.K.G.Bhat,M.B:B.S said...

we prepare a hagalkai dish called 'menaskai'which can really be tasty.i have posted the recipe in sulekha.com

Anonymous said...

Such an easy recipe - but so so so tasty! Thanks for posting this.