Phew!!! I’m back with baked bitter gourd…..and this time, it’s for good. I was on too long a hiatus than planned. Well, a cross country move, hubby’s new job and a new place to settle in does demand time and energy. That’s not the only factor that kept me away from blogging, I had blogger’s block. I didn’t know where and how to start again. I kept procrastinating the ‘come back’ out of sheer laziness. Oh Yeah! I admit. Meanwhile, I made new friends (real life and virtual), actively participated in online discussions on forums like Home Bakers Guild and did a lot of baking. In a way, I decided to post this recipe after I saw the interest from several ‘Karela Lovers’ for baked version of bitter gourd opposed to the fried counterpart.
Before getting the right crispy texture, I had failures with regards to right balance of spices, oven temperature and baking time. It was either charred or soggy. But I was hell bent on baking it instead of deep frying just to escape the guilt trip of feeding on ‘fried’ food. Saying that, I came across two varieties of bitter gourds in the market. One was the long Chinese light green bitter melon with pebbled texture and the other is the shorter Indian variety with spiky texture. Taste wise, both are just ‘bitter’. I call it pleasant culinary bitterness which I enjoy with a bowl of rice and curry. While selecting bitter gourd, take note the color matters. Dark green and firm ones are tender and bitter, while the light green and soft textured ones are less bitter, sometimes even ripe inside with reddish pith and big seeds.
This bitter vegetable with least appealing acrid taste is believed to make the diabetics fitter. Neah, I’m kidding. It is scientifically proven that bittergourd improves the uptake of glucose. It is loaded with Vitamin A and C, Beta carotene, Iron and Calcium. According to Ayurveda ‘Karela’ was used to balance the doshas (composition) of our body.
3 Big or 6 small Bitter gourds * Prepare as instructed
1/2 tbsp Ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Red chilli powder
1 tsp Garam masala powder * For a South-Indian twist substitute with sambar powder
1 tsp Cumin powder * Roast and pulse in the mixer
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
2 tbsp Lemon/ Lime juice * Can substitute with 1 tbsp Amchoor powder
1/4 cup Oil of choice plus more for greasing the baking sheet or tray * I used sesame oil
1/4 cup Rice powder * I used brown rice powder. Can be substituted with besan flour/ Indian chickpea flour
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Sugar * Optional. Diabetics may skip this.
1. I had 2 dark green ones and 1 light green one. Rinse under running water and pat dry. No need to peel bitter gourds. Slice into 1/4 inch round discs and discard ends. Remove pith and seeds. I like the seeds, so kept it.
2. Put the sliced gourd in a bowl and add rest of the ingredients except sugar. Marinate the coated gourd for an hour. Some choose to squeeze out and drain the water secreted while marinating to tame the bitterness. I choose not to drain so as to retain the flavor.
3. Meanwhile grease the baking sheet. Pre heat the oven at 425° F/ 220° C. You can line the baking sheet with Aluminium foil. I didn’t line it. Lazy me Spread the marinated slices over the greased baking sheet without crowding. Sprinkle sugar over the slices. This helps caramelize the surface when baked. Using sugar is absolutely optional though it enhances the taste by complementing the bitter, sour, spice and salt present in the gourd.
4. Stick the baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30 mins. Half way through (15 mins) remove the baking sheet, flip sides of the gourd discs, rotate the baking sheet 180 degree, place inside the oven and bake for another 15 mins. I know what you’re thinking, won’t opening oven affect the temperature distribution inside. Unless flipped and rotated, the gourd discs will become a charred mess at the end of 30 mins. Hence, this step is crucial. Do it as quickly as you can.
5. After the completion of 30 mins baking time, you’ll notice that some gourd discs are baked to perfection while some are still hanging in there. Now remove the golden and crispy baked chips. This happens due to uneven size of the discs. The middle portion of the gourd is bigger than the tapered ends. So, the slices are of all sizes. If all slices are left to bake for 40 mins at a stretch, the gourd chips will be charred chips. Smaller discs get baked faster. Remove those and place the tray again in the oven.
6. Bake the undone gourd discs for another 10 mins or until golden brown.
7. Let it cool on the baking sheet for about 10 mins. Remove the crispy crunchy karela chips and enjoy! Chips can be stored in an air tight container and at room temperature for 3 days.