Paagarkkaai a.k.a karella a.k.a bitter gourd, is very good for health. Most people don't like it because, like its English name says, it IS bitter. My Mom makes paagarkkaai in such a way that the bitterness doesn't show. She deep fries paagarkkaai and also makes something called "pitlai" with it, which is somewhat similar to sambar (but paagarkkaai pitlai is a whole new post by itself). It is very easy to make paagarkkaai fry and here is the recipe :-).
Ingredients (about 2 - 3 servings):
Paagarkkaai - 4 medium sized ones cut into small pieces
(You can take the seeds out if they are too hard. Tender paagarkkaai seeds can be retained though)
Tamarind soaked in very little water - about the size of a small lemon
(If using tamarind paste, about 1/2 teaspoon of it)
Red chilli powder - 2 teaspoons (vary this to suit your taste, but be sure to add enough to balance the tamarind)
Asafoetida - 1/4 teaspoon
Cooking oil - 2 tablespoons
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Salt to taste
1. Take a bowl, add the cut paagarkkaai, asafoetida, red chilli powder, salt, the thick extract of the tamarind soaked in water (Yes, this time, the tamarind extract from the soaked tamarind should be very thick) or the tamarind paste, mix everything well and marinate the paagarkkaai in the mixture for about 30 minutes. You can finish the rest of the cooking during this time ;-). Marinating the mixture in tamarind extract/paste and salt is to take the bitterness from the paagarkkaai.
2. Heat some oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter. After the mustard splutters, add the marinated paagarkkaai and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. You can throw the lid on during this time.
3. After the paagarkkaai has softened, deep fry it on medium heat and turn off the stove. It rougly takes about 20 more minutes.
I simply love this paagarkkaai fry with curd rice. That is an unbeatable combo :-).