Korola Bhaja is a simple stir fried dish popular in Bengali Cuisine. Korola is Bitter Gourd and Bhaja refers to deep fried or stir fried. We serve Korola Bhaja in the beginning of the meal, and we eat it with plain steamed white rice.
Korola Bhaja is yet another simple side dish that we serve at the beginning of the meal. We sometime also refer to it as ucche bhaja. Bitter is referred to as "teto" in Bengali, and it plays a very important part in Bengali everyday meal.
Bengali meal is a feast every day, and it often starts with something bitter. Especially during peak summer months. Bitter is known to cleanse our body and keep infection away.
So during these hot summer months, Ma would prepare Korola Bhaja quite frequently. Some days, she would skip Korola Bhaja and instead would prepare Tetor Daal (Bitter Gourd Yellow Mung Stew).
Growing up, I absolutely disliked this veggie, and I was never happy to see it in the menu. I would just gulp it down with water because there was no way she would allow us to ignore the bitter gourd.
Bitter gourd is still not my favorite vegetable, but occasionally I love it with steamed white rice and ghee drizzled on top.
Ingredients you need for this Bengali Style Bitter Gourd Stir fried
Bitter gourd - Always pick tender dark green color bitter gourd. If the color is faded to pale green or yellowish, then the texture will turn out mushy. In US, the bitter gourds we find are bigger than compared to what I grew up eating back in India. The smaller ones are definitely much bitter.
Nigella seeds (Kalo Jeere/ Kalongi) - Nigela seeds are very commonly used in Bengali cooking and in most veggie stir fried dish. If you cannot find Nigella seeds, you can use cumin seeds too.
Salt and turmeric - A very tiny amount of turmeric powder is added for color and salt for seasoning.
Mustard Oil - We love making the bhaja in mustard oil, but you can surely use vegetable oil too.
How to prepare Korola Bhaja
You slice the bitter gourd into thin slices. If the seeds look too big, then discard. Then sprinkle some salt and turmeric and leave it aside for 15 to 20 minutes. This will soften the veggie and that way it will cook faster.
Once you are ready to fry, take a heavy bottom skillet and pour the oil followed by nigella seeds. Let it sizzle for a while, then scatter the bitter gourd. Let it sizzle for a few minutes, then toss it around and let it sizzle again for a few minutes. Continue doing this until the bitter gourd is golden brown.
Depending on your choice, you may want to cook it further to crispy or even leave it a little soft. The more crispy you fry the bitter gourd, the less bitter it tastes.
My husband like this bitter gourd stir fried a lot, and he can eat it with roti/paratha or any variety of daal with rice. But for me, I enjoy it with only plain white rice, drizzle with ghee, sprinkle of salt and fresh green chili on the side.
It's a comfort food that my taste bud enjoyed only at an adult age. Avyan still doesn't like it but just like my Ma, I too make it a mandate that he should eat just a few slices.
- 5 bitter gourds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ½ teaspoon nigella seeds
- Trim the edges of the bitter gourd and discard.
- Slice the bitter gourd into thin slices.
- Place it in a bowl and sprinkle salt plus turmeric. Mix it a massage and then place the marinated bitter gourd in a colander for 15 to 20 minutes.
- When you are ready to fry, place a heavy bottom skillet on medium heat and drizzle the oil. Then scatter the nigella seeds and let it sizzle for a few seconds.
- Scatter and level the sliced bitter gourd and let it sizzle for a few minutes. Then toss it around and let it sizzle for a few more minutes. Continue doing this until the bitter gourds are cooked through and turns crispy.
- Enjoy the korola bhaja right way, warm and crispy.