Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hagalakayi (bitter gourd) palya - An unusual love affair

Happy Valentine's day everyone! Hope you all had a good celebration of the precious love in your lives and I hope it continues to get stronger through the rest of the year and life.

We had a good Sunday, got up late, cooked a storm in the kitchen and had a great brunch. Nothing typical of what you would expect on a Valentine's day lunch plate :-) but everything me & my valentine love in food was there. Other than that it was any normal Sunday.
Since the blogosphere is bursting with overdose of sugar for the Valentine's day, I thought I will step in and save the world from the risk of mass diabetes and deviate from the theme a wee (more than a wee) bit with my post. We were talking to parents in India on Friday and amma reminded me to make some payasa on Saturday as it was Ratha Saptami. Dutiful DIL that I am (and since we were both craving for something sweet and yummy :-)), I immediately followed up on it and made a delicious anna-payasa or rice kheer which after an hour on the stove became creamy and irresistible. I had every intention of making just a cup of it but with the rice and jaggery and milk, I ended up with substantial quantity that extended into Sunday too :-). Once cold in the fridge, it was so delicious. Thus our Valentine's day started with a ready to eat sweet item. And I didn't have to specially make anything sweet for the Valentine's day.

Somehow the concept of Valentine's day didn't grow on me, we used to make cards and cookies when DD was in grade school so she could take it to all her classmates and teachers but she outgrew that too. The innocence of bulk valentine day cards gave way to adolescent "yew, who gives cards and heart candies to boys" soon. Today I message her in the morning and wish Happy Valentine's day and she writes back a hurried 'Mwah, mwah". I am an insistent mom and ask her, "what is special for Valentine's day"? and get a "what Valentine's day? Mom, I have assignments upto my nose and am studying for my psych exam next week, stop being silly". I know some day it will change again :-) and I am not in any hurry for her to get there either. For me personally, celebrating love on a specific day feels restrictive, being in love is eternal, is a life long thing for me :-). Not that I don't appreciate flowers and gifts on the day but I prefer to take the pressure off of us of having to do something cute on this day to stay cool. More than anything else, it is also a great excuse for not having to come up with creative ideas to celebrate Feb 14th which suits the lazy me very well :-)
So on this Valentine's day I have a to make a confession of my our love to this vegetable. Not many people love it and it doesn't make the main stay in meals but I have openly talked about my feelings for this vegetable here, here, here, and here on the blog. If that is not sufficient proof of the intensity of this love affair, what is? We love to eat bitter gourd any form or shape though there are a few 'favoriter' recipes that have an edge over others. And then I keep adding to my repertoire of bitter gourd recipes as I come across them. Some make a mark and stay on and some just breeze in and out of my kitchen with a single occurrence. I first found this in a cookery book, the source mentioned it as a Gujarati dish, then I also saw it on an online Telugu cookery show. I combined the best of both worlds, made a few changes to suit my palate and viola, created a keeper recipe I have made multiple times.

The Gujarati version called it bitter gourd dry chutney and the Telugu version called Kaakarakaya chutney podi :-). Gujarati version was low on chili powder but added lot of crushed peanuts while the Telugu version skipped peanuts and poured red chili powder to the delight of a hard core spice lover. I chose to tread the middle path and combined ingredients from both. My version is not as dry as a spice powder and I don't think it fits a 'chutney' label, so I am kind of undecided on the category. I am ok calling it palya (stir fry) or subzi for now. No matter what you call it, it tastes delicious and if bitter gourd is one of your valentines (that is an overloaded statement right there, we will get back to that later :-)), give it a try and I am sure you will fall in love all over. The flavors are intense from the gourd, peanut powder and the sesame. Pair it with a mild yogurt based curry like majjige huli and enjoy.
Disclaimer: For those of you who are not bitter gourd fans, don't try to judge me for posting a recipe with this vegetable for Valentine's day, "har prem kahhani anoukhi hoti hai, jaroori nahin ki sub log use samjhe" (every love story is unique, not that others always understand it) :-). Each to his or her own taste.

What do you need to make bitter gourd palya? 
3 medium sized bitter gourd
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/4 Tsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
3/4 Tsp salt
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp peanut powder or coarsely crushed peanuts
1/2 Tsp mustard
2 green chilies - chopped
6-8 curry leaves - chopped
1 Tsp crushed jaggery/brown sugar
1 Tsp chopped cilantro
pinch of turmeric powder
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make bitter gourd palya? 
  • Wash, cut the ends and scrape the outer skin on bitter gourd lightly. 
  • Slit them vertically into halves and remove the seeds. 
  • Reserve about a Tbsp of tender seeds for later use and discard the remaining. 
  • Grate the bitter gourds on the big hole side of a grate or process them in a food processor or chop them finely. Idea is to get really tiny pieces without making a paste. 
  • If you want to reduce the bitterness, add a pinch of salt and turmeric to the grated gourd, set aside for about 20 minutes, squeeze out all the juice that is generated. Wash the bitter gourd under running water and squeeze out the vegetable. While this removes the bitterness, it also removes a lot of nutrients.
  • I like to retain the natural bitterness and go to the next step directly. 
  • Heat 1.5 tbsp oil in a pan, add mustard and let it pop. 
  • Add sesame seeds, chopped green chilies and curry leaves and let roast for 30 secs.
  • Chop up the tender seeds reserved and add them to the pan, let them roast for a minute. 
  • Add chopped onion followed by salt, asafoetida and turmeric powder and let the onion sweat and soften up. 
  • Add the tamarind paste and jaggery.
  • Add the grated bitter gourd and spread it in the pan in a thin layer - this helps to roast quickly and lose moisture. 
  • Cook on low flame, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Use the remaining 1/2 Tbsp of oil as needed.
  • Once the extra moisture is gone and the bitter gourd is soft, continue cooking until it reaches your desired dryness and crispiness. Mine took about 25 minutes for the quantity above. 
  • Add red chili powder and the peanut powder at this stage along with chopped cilantro, mix well. 
  • Let cook for just a minute, switch off and serve. It tastes great as an accompaniment for roti/chapatis and also mixed with steamed rice. 
My lunch box with Majjige huli, anna with bitter gourd subzi
  • You can store this in a dry container in the fridge for a week. 
  • Use tender and firm bitter gourd for this recipe
  • I prefer a non stick pan if I am making a large batch so I can use less oil and still fry it without getting sticky at the bottom. 
  • I used my home made peanut powder for this recipe, you can also just add coarsely crushed peanuts for crunch. 
  • The seeds used give a nice crunch and the tender ones are usually not bitter at all. If you do not like them, skip this from the recipe. 

1 comment:

NamsVeni Pothas said...

happy Valentine day to Sattvaa readers. wonderful recipe of bitter gourd is really nice.