Anita’s post for the Kashmiri dish, al yakhni, was, I believe, the first recipe of hers that I commented upon. I remember it well, as she was so kind to suggest this recipe after learning what a huge fan of karela I am, as, although her post made use of al (bottle gourd), the same gravy can be used to cook nadur(lotus stem/root/tubers) as well as karel…
So, because I had a sizable new batch of yoghurt at the ready, and locally-grown bitter melons from both the farmers’ market and my own vines, I decided that the time had finally come to try this dish and do it justice with these freshest of ingredients. (A stock of Lucknowi saunf helps too!)
I was not disappointed. Most delicious…fragrant with saunf, which goes so well with karela. (Bengali cooks would agree!) Rice is a must to accompany this very soothing, comforting dish and allow the aroma of the gravy to bloom. It will definitely be a regular item on my personal menu from now on. Thanks so much for sharing all that you do Anita. May your next year in food-blogging be just as spectacular!
750 gms karel/karela/bitter gourd/bitter melon, sliced into 1/3″ rounds**
Mustard oil as needed (highly recommended; use another oil if you absolutely must)
1 C dahi/yoghurt
3 t powdered saunf/fennel seeds
1/2 t saunth/dried, powdered ginger
1/4 t whole shah jheera/kala jheera/black cumin
1/4 t whole jheera/cumin/white cumin
green chiles (optional ingredient- not traditional? Anita uses 3 snapped in half; I used two sliced into rounds, retaining the seeds as well)
1)Deep-fry the slices of karela in oil until golden brown; drain well (You may also shallow/pan fry the slices in a few tablespoons of oil if you like- I did so this time, but next time I think I would prefer to deep-fry them as it would be quicker, really, and karela is not highly-absorbent of oil)
2)Place the yoghurt in a bowl; beat or whisk it until smooth; add the saunf and saunth powders; mix well, then add 1 cup of water; set aside. (This should be at room temperature to minimize separation of the yoghurt)
3)Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a pan over medium-low heat, add both black and white cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds until their aroma is released; turn heat to very low and add the yoghurt mixture.
4)Add the fried karela slices, green chiles, salt to taste, and, if necessary, a bit more water to just cover the vegetable. Bring slowly to a simmer, cover and cook until the chiles are tender. Serve warm with hot rice. Unforgettable!
*Uh…Anita? Why does yakhni change to yakhin in this title? Inquiring minds want to know!
**The rule of thumb that I use for bitter gourd is this: if the interior seed-coatings are red, scrape out the seed cavity. If it is still green/white, slice it and the seeds along with the rind. Ingesting the seeds has been known since ancient times to remove intestinal worms. I’m safe!
If you’d like to remove some of the bitterness, soak in salt-water for an hour; rinse and drain, or sprinkle the slices with salt, let stand for an hour, place in a muslin or cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid. I don’t de-bitter the vegetable anymore, as I would not like to compromise nutrients or lose any of the fine flavour.
NEW NOTE!!!! With the latest info: Kashmiris prefer the karela to be cut in half, or quarters if they are larger, and the seed-cavity removed before cooking in this dish. The seeds, with their protective jackets (if not yet red) are deep-fried until golden and crispy, then sprinkled with ground red chiles and salt and served as a side with the yakhin.
I thought I’d share a few photos with you, my readers, of the karela-vine progress…
Globe thistle; behind them, on either side, are trellises which the vines are quickly taking over.
This is a white, Chinese/Thai variety called Hybrid Beauty Winner. This one is still very young; they become paler as they mature and grow, but this one didn’t make it that far!