What's that?!!! I exclaimed as Ritu removed the fried rat from her lunch box. Atleast I thought that's what it was. She rolled her eyes retorting "You know I am veggie."
A closer look and I knew they were Karelas. Stuffed to be right. She explained to me how these fried rats were always stocked in their fridge for times when there were leftovers and a little bit of something could save her Mom from cooking a new addition to the meal. Their family loved them. Then she meticulously explained to me the procedure of how they are done in her home a traditional Punjabi household.
I have made them a couple of times since those years when Ritu and me worked together. She was my junior at university so we cared for each other much like that. I was always dispensing free advice and she would always trust me a lot. Infact I recollect the days we spent at EverReady at Lucknow were the most fun filled ones for us together. Her parents permitted her to travel for that project just because I was accompanying!
Traditionally these Karelas are stuffed and bound with a string then deep fried in oil. The binding with the string helps keep the stuffing inside the karelas. It is removed while eating at the table.
This procedure of removing the string is one of the few case where amongst vegetarian food one has to pause and prepare the food to be bitten into. It reminds me of people eating fish when I have seen many become impatient when they need to remove the bones before indulging in the bite.
Well the recipe I have given here is mostly as Ritu narated to me in the small office where we worked years ago during lunch time. Yet is adapted to the changing times when I would not think it right to deep fry a vegetable with high water content in oil. It would mean a red signal on the cholesterol map.
These stuffed karelas are actually like a fresh pickle that lasts in the fridge for almost a week. In the Blr climate it stayed good for 3 days at room temperature.
4 Karelas (prefarably small sized)
4 onions sliced thin
2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 teaspoon dried mango powder
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
3 tablespoon oil to fry
Preparing the Karelas:
First slit vertically the Karelas such that it can be filled with the stuffing later. Scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Apply salt on the insides. Keep aside while we prepare the stuffing.
Preparing the stuffing:
In a wok heat 1 table spoon on oil. Fry the onions till translucent. Add all the powders. Mix well and cook for 5 mins. Put off the heat and add the chopped cilantro. Mix again after adding salt. Do not add too much as we have already salted the Karelas.
Fill the Karelas:
Fill the empty pockets of the Karelas with the stuffing we made. Bind with a string around it to hold the stuffing in just incase you feel you are going to mess up while frying. I was very careful so did not have any stuffing come out.
In a frying pan add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Line up the Karelas. Frying well on both sides. It is OK if the look dark and ugly but don't char them on high heat. Control the heat switching between medium and sim.
Cool completely before saving in a container. These come handy as a side dish and taste yummy. Yes Karelas that taste yummy you heard it right.