Stuffed karela (pavakai/bitter gourd) subji

This is a North Indian take on our stuffed  பாகற்க்காய் (bitter gourd). A bit labour intensive but, well worth the effort. In this  method I bake the stuffed karela instead of deep frying, so the weight watchers can also indulge. 

A word about the dry spice mix used. It is called panch phoron or five spices. This is traditionally used in West Bengal and other North Eastern states for their fish dishes but has been adopted by the North Indians for some of their dishes also. This is just a dry mix of equal amounts of mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek, fennel seeds and kalonji or nigella seeds. This is always used whole and not ground. I always keep this premixed and readily available as this adds a lovely flavour to North Indian dishes.

panch phoron


Small karela – 20
Tomatoes – 4
Onions, medium – 2 
Ginger, grated – 1 tsp
Panch phoron – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Sambar powder – 1 tsp
Red chilli powder – to taste
Salt – to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp

Make a slit in all the karelas and put in boiling salted water. Allow to boil till they change colour. After they cool use the back of a spoon to remove carefully all the seeds. Chop the onions and tomatoes and set aside. In a kadai add 1 tsp oil and add the panch phoron. When it starts popping add the onions and ginger. When onions turn translucent, add the tomatoes, turmeric powder, sambar powder and salt to taste. Add chili powder if needed. Allow the tomatoes to cook and mash well with a potato masher so the masala comes together. 

masala for the subji

Carefully open out each karela and spoon in this masala till it is properly stuffed. Keep the excess stuffing aside. On a tray take a tsp of the oil and spread it evenly and place the stuffed karelas on it. With the remaining oil spread a little over each karela and then roast in the oven at 190/200C for 20 mins or till they are nicely browned.

karela ready for roasting
roasted karela

Once they are done add them back carefully to the kadai with the excess stuffing and carefully mix till the excess stuffing is evenly distributed over the roasted karelas. Serve with hot chapatis. Serves 4.

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