Karel Yakhin

August 11, 2007 at 12:26 AM (bitter melon/gourd, dishes by cuisine, dishes by main ingredient, India, Kashmir, milk and milk products, vegetables/ fruits, yoghurt)


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!

Karel Yakhin*

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!



  1. Manisha said,

    Lovely vines, Pel! And that karela looks divine! I am kicking myself for not planting karela. Too late now. Maybe next year! You didn’t yank that thistle out?

    Karela and yogurt. Hmmm! Must give it a spin.

    The yakhin/yakhni might be a gender thing, maybe? Who knows! Some Kashmiris – ok! just one that I know – are confused about spelling and pronounciation – it changes from day to day.

    And, you have worms?

    Yes!- makes it very hard to get a date, especially when they slither out of my @$$ and demand to be introduced! 😀

    Ha! No… I just like to be informed of such things; carrots, pomegranate-seeds, karela seeds, wormwood; all are natural antihelminthics…

    Yank that thistle out?!!! Sweet… it’s quite the bee-attractant I tell ya! I like watching them as they look like little elephants with wings. Karela is super-easy to grow, but it needs constant watering or it’ll droop- not pretty. Snake gourds- not! I couldn’t get them to germinate!

    Yeah, those Kashmiris like to keep secrets… 😉 But, with this dish I forgive all of that… 😀 I was kind of suprised at how strongly the dish tastes of fennel; sort of reminds me of Chinese dishes made with 5-spice powder- if I didn’t know and tasted this dish, I would never have guessed it to be part of the Indian repetoire at all. You gotta try it!

  2. Anita said,

    Wow, Pel, I am so impressed! Loved the advice on mustard oil – heart that!

    Yakhin is as it is spoken in Kashmiri, while yakhni is how it has been absorbed into other Indian languages.

    But before I award a 10/10 – vegetable preparation is taken very seriously in traditional Kashmiri cooking, every veggie has a particular cut depending on the recipe. To quote Madhur J, “Great frowns appear on ancient faces at signs of carelessness.”

    But I’m not frowning; I’m just old, not ancient! For karel yakhin, the karela is slit along its length into two haves; if a real long one then maybe cut across in half, and then fried. It might have to do with it using less oil (reduced surface area), taking less time, or just how most Kashmiri veggies are large chunks. Laziness? 😀

    Your way will make it easier to consume as the pieces are bite-sized. We bite off bits or used the thumb and fingers to ‘pinch-off’ small portions – may not look very graceful to any non-Kashmiri!

    Those thistles are so beautiful, why would anyone suggest yanking them! These suburbanites are so intolerant of insects, I tell you.

    I see some bean leaves as well…

    Observant! Yes… I planted a row of beans in front of the karelas: those black val on one side(which are climbing all over the place), and a western heirloom variety from South America, but also used in Italy- called “Dragon’s Tongue Wax”/”Tongues of Fire– which produces pods and beans which are yellowish with streaks of violet.

    Halved or quartered eh? Hmmm…. keeping secrets are you? 😀 …reminds me of the whole leaves in haak! I’ll certainly make a note of that, and prepare it in that way next round- thanks! Oh….and while I have you here and on the subject: how is nadur cut for yakhin?!!!

    I’ve become quite fond of the flavour of mustard oil; the fact that it is a healthy oil is secondary! 😉

    Yeah, those suburbanites- never fully metro OR rural…I hear that some are terrified of snakes and spiders, probably butterflies and moths as well…. 😀 Wildlife just doesn’t fit into their cookie-cutter wonderland! 😉

  3. Anita said,

    Here’s what I sometimes do with the ripe seeds (not the red ones, mind you) : separate the seeds (they are sort of all joined together with the fleshy stuff), let the fleshy stuff cling, doesn’t matter. Deep fry till golden brown, sprinkle with salt and red chilli powder, and serve as a side with the meal. Crunchy and delicious.

    Haven’t done that in the longest time – all that oil scares us these days! 😉

    Oh! Now that sounds divine! Heart that…. 😉 Good for weekends.

  4. Jyothsna said,

    You have a lovely garden. How did you develop a liking to Indian food?

    I don’t like to be bored…. and Indian cuisine appears to be the only one with no end of variety/different dishes in sight! But, I’d say it began with my young, keen interest in aromatic plants… 🙂 Thanks for the compliment.

  5. saju said,

    What a wonderful recipe. I love how it looks. Will definitely try it soon.

    Super-delicious and simple (even simpler than I knew! 😉 ) to prepare…thanks for stopping!

  6. musical said,

    Yes! at last…..at long last! Thank you Pel 😀 i LOVE karelas and i just heart this preparation!!

    he he, Anita i know just two pieces from one karela-that makes life easier for the cook , doesn’t it 😀 but each way of cutting vegetables contribu ates certain taste as well…..and no, Anita, i love that way of pinching off vegetables 😀 we Punjus do that too 😉 remember, we make aloo-gobhi with huge chunks of gobhi and aloo 😀

    Folks, this made my day!

    Now if only i could have some fresh karelas like the one in last picture!

    I feel very fortunate to live in karela-fan land here- even in winter there are gorgeous (crisp, with no spots) available in the Thai/Lao shops. You’d really like this dish Musical- I’m quite taken with it: three hearts for it! 😀 Big chunks could only add to the fun!

  7. bee said,

    dear pel, we have friends visiting from california.

    karela haters.

    they tasted your karelapickle and asked for more. they said ‘it doesn’t tate like kerala. it tastes like awesom pickle’. thanks.

    Longer frying of the pieces appears to remove their identity… lol I’m glad they liked it, pretty mellow flavour, that batch.

  8. bee said,

    sorry, that’s karela, not kerala. too much booze last night.

    Yeah…and typos! (fixed most of ’em) Me, now…I NEVER visit the food-blogs while tipsy-kutu… 😀

  9. Manisha said,

    Don’t fit in anywhere – that’s me!

    But I’d love to see a certain someone actually recommend globe thistle in a landscape plan. Not only are they very invasive, their prickly dried heads hurt! I found out the hard way. 😦

    Anyway, I am goin gint o a major sulk…:(

    Oh, I love plants like that though…Bur-dock is really beautiful if you stand clear of the seed-pods- they inspired “velcro” you know…and then there’s that skunk cabbage- I’ll see if I can get photos of how they look now. Would that cheer you up?

  10. Manisha said,

    Some attention always cheers me up! 😀

    I’d read about velcro and burdock in my quest to identify flowers for Flower fest! Amazing that no-one had come up with it before!

    Do forgive me; sometimes i get so caught up in my own situation(s) that it gets difficult to see beyond it!

    An earlier invention? Nature never ceases to amaze me- even the oft-dismissed dandelion deserves admiration…

  11. neroli said,

    Dear Pel, thanks for posting not only the lovely recipe—count me in with those crazy for karela—but for the pics of what you’re growing—is it all as deliciously rampant as it seems, or is it the way that you’ve framed it here?
    (the trellis and vines are a particularly lovely composition—that wood of the trellis, so organic, just *makes* it)
    Persons going through gardening withdrawal wish to know.

    I imagine I’ll experience a similar withdrawal in time as well- this is my mother’s property (I am staying with her right now) and, as she has a brown thumb paired with beds which surround the house…well, let’s say I’ve livened things up a bit! 🙂 After I leave I am certain most things will perish from neglect.

    Thanks for the compliment; the trellises are made of cedar, the horozontals are hand-split- sort of Japanese-esque. I’ll do a post soon and take a wide-frame snap to show the design.

  12. Anita said,

    I would reco globe thistle you know…not for a residential landscape maybe…unless the client was a bit, you know, like Pel! 😀

    Yes, Musical, how could I forget gobi-aloo! My eyes widened when I saw my MIL prepare gobi for gobi aloo. Not only were the pieces half-bite size, every piece had had its stem end peeled! I compromised and use a size between the two – it is still very chunky though!

    On Nadir Yakin: long cylindricalpieces, about 1 1/4-1 2/2 inch long. Before you ask 😀 : Nadur-singular, nadir- plural! And Nadur is perhaps the one veggie with the most styles for cooking – it changes with what it is cooked with. With haak, thin sliced on the bias! Happy cooking.

    Hmmm…long, cylindrical pieces…so, would you cut each in half lengthwise first and then…no….maybe 1/3″ slices lengthwise and then again to get strips? On the bias for haak…that’d be so pretty!

    As for the globe thistle…seriously only the high-end nurseries even stock them here; although, mostly I’ve only seen them used for loosely-controlled “wildish” beds in summer-homes. 🙂 They are very low-maintenance! Even my mother is snarling at it less and less… 😉 But I love it! All those lilac-hued pompons… they remind me of Dr. Seuss illustrations… 😀

  13. sharmi said,

    this recipe is made in a little different way in the south and is called Perugu Pachadi.
    that Chinese Karela looks so good. your plant has come so well. I love Bharwan Karela the most. I have that in my blog, if it interests you.

    I’ll be right over!!!

  14. Cynthia said,

    Like okras, bitter gourd is another of my favourite vegetables. I’ve never had it cooked in a gravy before… must try it sometime.

    Hey, I got some mustard oil in Guyana 🙂

    I’ve also left an award for you on my blog. Do check.

    Hope all is well with you and that you are having a good summer.

    Oh! You found some! Isn’t it the best stuff? I even sampled some raw when I first got it home, before proceeding to compose a more-authentic haak.

    My summer is going pretty well; I enjoy the heat, but it’s been too dry here lately, which is odd because, traditionally, August is Wisconsin’s wettest month. I imagine there’ll be crop shortages this year, and I’ve had to hand-water my plants frequently.

    How is your summer going? No hurricanes or bad storms so far I hope?

  15. indosungod said,

    Pel, as I was wandering to get here I chanced on the uncooked site and began to worry about the “Death Threats” before I realized I was in the uncooked world of Et cetera, but I am finally here.
    Karela with yogurt sounds goodilicious. I have never tried Karela with yogurt, time I did.

    Those trellis were not made specially for the Karela? they look like they are made for each other.

    Oh…no worries, today that person’s in a jubilant mood. I ought to do a new post with a lighter topic to be on top of the pile! 🙂

    Yes, actually I did indeed make them specifically for karela, but other plants have no problem using them too! 😉 Do try this dish sometime; Kashmiri cuisine definitely sets itself apart from any other…

  16. Musical said,

    Yes Pel, i do love karel yakhin 🙂 and now that i see some mirchi floating around in the gravy, its giving me wicked ideas…..if only Anita would approve of them 🙂 How about making mirchi/marchwanagn yakhin out of those huge Anaheim peppers! Pel, i know you will say yes, but its Anita who has the last word here 😉

    You know what? Anita actually rebelled first and put green chiles in her doodhe yakhni!!! I think mirch……er….what’s Kashmiri for chile? I think she said it once somewhere….wait! I’ll see if I can look it up………………………… wãgun? Something like that…one of the characters isn’t displaying for me correctly after the “a”. Well, until we know better, wa_gun yakhin sounds like a marvelous dish! I bet some Kashmiri somewhere has prepared it already….Oh, you have good taste Musical! 😉

  17. Anita said,

    Musical, I like!

    Great cooks always tweak a recipe…how else would we have so many cuisines?! I do love the flavour of green chillies in the yakhni…just a hint of heat, but big on falvour.

    (BTW, the chillies in all Kashmiri cooking are usually used whole or broken into two! 😉 – who has the patience for thin slicing anything!)

  18. Anita said,

    Not so fast, Pel. Wangun is baingan/eggplant! Martch-wangun is chilli! 😀 Happy cooking!

    Ah! So…you approve of uh…the experiment set forth by the Musical one????! Do tell….is this dish, martch-wangun yakhin (how does one say “green”?) ever prepared?

  19. shilpa said,

    This looks like a super cool dish Pel. I would love to remove some bitterness though in my dish 🙂 . Your karela creeper looks so beautiful and healthy (I am saying this because of the pathetic situation of the plants that I kept in small pots on my balcony this year)…

    Hey! Nice to see you Shilpa! I would think that you would indeed want to salt and squeeze the karathe first- as I know how you are! 😉 Is there a kosambir of karathe in Konkani cuisine as well? (I hope that is the right word) Also, I saw your post on sun-dried karathe- they look marvelous, but I haven’t placed a comment yet. 😦

    Thanks for the compliments! Yeah, they would be difficult in pots because they seem to like a lot of water….not always wet, but very frequent watering. You could try bigger pots? The additional soil might keep the moisture longer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: