Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Simple Kantola (spiky Indian gourd) Curry

On a recent trip to the Indian grocery, we picked up a few interesting and unfamiliar vegetables, including jackfruit (which wound up in a Thai-style green curry) and a bag of frozen kantola. Having never tried it before, we weren't sure what to expect beyond the label's description of it as an "Indian gourd." A quick web search revealed that its proper name is momordica dioica, "commonly known as "teasle gourd kakrol, kankro, kartoli, kantoli, kantola or kantroli...a relatively small, oval to ovoid vegetable, it is a very highly prized vegetable in the Indian sub-continent though relatively rare. It is only available during the rainy months." Fair enough, but what should I do with it? A little more digging came up with a basic curry recipe, to which I added onions, bell pepper, and a dash of sugar to cut the bitterness common to many gourds. With some naan and spicy pickle, it made a nice accompaniment to some leftover chana dal khichari; if you don't have access to kantola, I think this would be very good with okra, or even eggplant, which are more widely available. However, if you are lucky enough to have a good Indian market nearby, pick up some of this stuff and give it a go, if only so you can answer the inevitable question, "What's for dinner?" with "Spiky, bitter Indian gourds - you wanna make something of it?"

Simple Kantola Curry
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1/2 tsp. black mustard seeds
~ 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
~ 1 red bell pepper, chopped
~ 1 12 oz frozen package kantola (Indian gourd), or okra
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, fenugreek powder, sugar
~ 1/2 tsp. each: coriander, cayenne pepper
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric
~ 1/4 cup water

~ Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet; add the mustard seeds and fry over medium-high heat until they pop.
~ Add the onions, and cook a few minutes, until they are just starting to soften.
~ Add the bell pepper and fry about 3 minutes more; add the kantola and remaining spices, stirring to coat.
~ Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring at regular intervals to prevent sticking. If necessary, add a bit of water (up to 1/4 cup) to the pan to deglaze it.
~ Remove the lid, raise the heat to high, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the vegetables are brown and slightly crisp.
~ Serve with dal, rice and/or naan bread, and the spicy pickle of your choice.


  1. This bitter gourd is also known as Karela. I grew up eating it as its quite easy to purchase at South Asian shops here. Karela is an acquired taste. I personally like it and hanker for it now and again. Its one of those dishes I prefer my mother to make for me (which includes mama's TLC). It is made quite simply with onion and Indian spices. Your dish appeals to me and to be honest is making my mouth water.

  2. Thank you for the compliment! I can certainly see how it would not be a flavor that appeals to everyone, but we love South Asian food and like nothing more than to experiment; I appreciate the vote of confidence from someone familiar with an ingredient that's pretty unfamiliar in our part of the world.

  3. Are Indian gourds similar to what we call gourds in America? I didn't know they were edible.

    Also, I've seen a ton of bitter gourd recipes on the Holy Cow! site (http://earthvegan.blogspot.com) although I haven't tried any of them.