Korola aloo chorchori | Bengali-style bitter gourd & potato

We are a family of bitter gourd lovers. Give us bitter gourd in any form and we will love it, especially if it has retained that light bitter taste – boiled, mashed and seasoned with mustard oil and salt; crispy fried; stuffed with spices; stir-fried – we heart this green. So much so that each time I am about to travel to Bristol to visit the elder sister and brother-in-law, the parents get nearly a kilogram or two of bitter gourd and then spend hours cooking it to crispy perfection. This dish is then securely packed in airtight containers which are opened only in the Bristol kitchen. I surmise that gives you an idea of the love (yes, I repeat the word) we have for bitter gourd.

Considering our love for the vegetable and the health benefits, bitter gourd is a fixture on our summer lunch plates. With the lockdown affecting availability of vegetables, bitter gourds are a hit-and-miss during the grocery shopping trips. But as and when spotted, I do try to bring a substantial amount.

The last time I bought a batch of bitter gourd, they were overripe. So, the idea of crispy fried korola (Bengali for bitter gourd) was dropped – tender and crisp bitter gourd being key to perfectly fried bitter gourd – for this easier version.

This bitter gourd and potato get its tasty quotient from the tempering of the quintessential Bengali spice mix – paanch phoron – in hot mustard oil. Which is not to say that you can’t try making this at home. Use regular odourless vegetable oil in place of mustard oil and replace paanch phoron with cumin seeds. Roasted would be better but it’s okay not to put in that extra effort. You’ve got enough on your plate already!

  • There are three ways you can tweak this recipe
  • Increase the amount of oil, letting the vegetables cook in the oil and steam; no adding water
  • Make it curry style by adding ½ cup more water, cooking till the vegetables are done and you’ve got some jhol (Bengali for gravy)
  • Follow this recipe; Either way, the final dish will be something you absolutely love if the bitter gourd is a green you like.

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Korola aloo shobji | Slow-cooked bitter gourd & potato recipe
Bitter gourd, potatoes tempered with Bengali spices and slow-cooked
  • 5 medium-sized Bitter gourds 200 grams
  • 1 medium-sized potato
  • 1 medium-sized onion
  • 1 ½ tablespoons mustard oil
  • ½ teaspoon paanch foron
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon whole wheat flour optional
  1. Chop the bitter gourd, potato and onion. Set aside.
  2. Heat mustard oil in a heavy-bottomed pan till smoking point. Add the paanch foron and let it splutter.
  3. Add the onion and cook till they’ve softened a bit, then add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the bitter gourd, turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt; mix well, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour one cup warm water and cook further till the potato and bitter gourd have softened.
  6. Check the seasoning. If you want to make the dish creamy, add ½ teaspoon of whole wheat flour to the curry.
  7. Serve hot with steamed/boiled rice.