The Big Boys Curry Book

Karela (Bitter Gourd) and Prawns

At 10pm in the evening the entrance to the train station is still a hive of activity

This Goan dish is quite distinctive, mixing the bitterness of the karela with the sweetness of prawns to provide a unique dish you are never likely to get in the restaurant. As the prawns are treated quite roughly in this recipe, you do not need to buy expensive ones. Frozen common prawns will do. The recipe is geared as a main meal for 4. Simply reduce by half to use as a side dish, (where it works well alongside a lamb curry.)


  • 1lb frozen prawns
  • 1lb karela. See glossary for preparation.
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine.
  • 3 green chillies, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 6 dry red chillies chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1 tsp. tamarind puree (Tamicon)
  • 1 tsp. jaggery, light brown sugar or ordinary sugar (in order of preference)
  • 1 tbsp. Ghee
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat ghee in wok and fry onion until translucent.
  2. Add all chillies, ginger, garlic, turmeric and cummin and salt and fry gently for 2 minutes or until aroma has mellowed.
  3. Add prawns and fry until they start to shrink and dry out.
  4. Add karela, mix and add water to just cover cover. Bring to boil, put a lid on and simmer until karela is almost cooked. Karela is cooked when it is 'al dente', i.e. soft but still with a bite to it. So try to judge it just before this. It should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Add tamarind and jaggery and stir in well. Remove lid and reduce the sauce to make the dish reasonably thick.

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