A deep-fried food that is also an antioxidant and immunity booster, korola bhaja is simply too good to be true.

A balanced meal includes elements not just from all food groups, but from all flavour profiles as well—bitter, astringent, sour, salty, sweet, and so on. Bitter foods, in particular, are well-known antioxidants that contain immunity-boosting enzymes. In Bengal, these are generally consumed around springtime, when the weather transitions from chilly to hot and all manner of allergens/viruses are in the air. Over the years, Bengali cooks have devised clever and delicious ways to incorporate bitters in their diet—from fried neem leaves to korola bhaja to shukto.

Today we show you how to prepare korola bhaja—batter-fried rings of bitter gourd—in just 20 minutes. In this recipe, the korola is twice cooked—first steamed and then fried. The batter itself is simple. It is mildly seasoned with some salt, sugar, and green chillies. Nigella seeds provide a subtle fragrance, while posto (poppy) adds crunch. We top it off with a drizzle of raw, pungent mustard oil for crispiness.


COOKING TIME 20 minutes
YIELDS 4 servings


Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
150 g Bitter gourd (1-cm rings)
50 g Maida (all-purpose flour)
3 g Salt
8 g Sugar
1 pinch Turmeric powder
1 pinch Kaalo jeere (nigella seeds)
2 g Posto (poppy seeds)
1 piece Green chilli (finely chopped)
5 g Mustard oil
75 g Water
~ 250 g Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Sauce pan | boiling pot (with lid)
  • Kadai | frying pan
  • Forks
  • Jhhajhhri hata | perforated spoon

Appliances

  • Stove

Method

  1. Divide the korola (bitter gourd) into rings, 1 cm wide.
  2. Transfer to a saucepan and add hot water, just enough to submerge all the rings. With the lid on, steam the korola for about 10 minutes. We don’t want to completely cook the vegetable at this stage. The rings will be deep-fried later on; the steaming will give the cooking process a head-start.
  3. Drain the bitter gourd rings immediately and set aside to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare a batter by mixing the flour, salt, sugar, turmeric, nigella seeds, poppy seeds, green chilli, mustard oil, and water in the given proportions.
  5. Mix the batter till well combined.
  6. Set a kadai on the stove and heat it up. Add vegetable oil to the pan, at least 4 cm deep.
  7. On medium flame, allow the oil to heat up completely. You can check by dropping some batter into the oil, and if it floats to the top immediately, with bubbles all around it, the oil is good to go. Remove the fried batter from the oil before proceeding, though.
  8. Dunk the steamed korola rings in the batter, one at a time, and coat them well.
  9. Gently lower them into the oil. You can fry about 8 to 10 rings at a time, depending on the size of your pan. But be sure not to overcrowd the pan, or they won’t turn out crispy.
  10. Once they are golden-brown, drain the fritters from the oil.
  11. Sprinkle with some rock salt and serve immediately.

Served with

Rice | panta bhaat
Dal