Karela is bitter melon. In India we use it for its bitter flavor. IN Indian cooking bitter is as important to the complexity of a meal as are sweet, sour and spicy.
Karelas in India are somewhat smaller than the ones we find in the US. Every so often in the Indian markets on Lexington avenue, I am able to find small bitter melons.
We stuff them, slice them and deep fry the sliced melon to make crisps, we cook them sliced as a stir fry. Some cook these with potatoes, other cook them in a tamarind sauce.
Some shave the outside and drowse the melons in excess salt to bring out most of the bitter juice. Then these are washed and cooked. Some do what I just explained and then go further by marinading the melons in yogurt for several hours. They feel that the yogurt further reduces the bitterness.
I love bitter melon chips. To make these you simply shave the skin to remove some of the portrusions. Drowse them in salt and let them drain for at least a couple of hours. Wash thoroughly and drain on paper towles. Slice into thin rounds and deep fry these and drain again on paper towels. Sprinkle with some Chaat Masala (it is a spice blend y ou can find at Indian stores). And serve hot.
I also am known to make these stuffed with fried onions and some spices. I use the melons that have been salted and drained as above. I then make a slit in the center, being careful to not detach the ends. In this slit I stuff caramelized onions that have been perked up with salt, pinch of cayenne, some toasted cumin, finely minced cilantro leaves, a pinch of garam masala and some chaat masala. I then tie these up to make sure the stuffing does not fall out. IN a large frying pan, I take some oil, in the oil I add a pinch of asafetida, 1/4 teaspoon of carom seeds, pinch of turmeric and some ground coriander seed powder and if available some amchoor (mango powder) and a cup of finely sliced onions. I fry these for two to 3 minutes and then add the stuffed melons. Stir fry the melons till they have started to get some color. Sprinkle a few drops of water as the pan dries out and the content begin to brown. Do this for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid and cook on a very low flame for another 5-10 minutes. Stir every so often to make sure the melons are browning evenly. Uncover, check to see if the melons are cooked, if not cook covered for 5 more minutes. When ready, serve hot with your favorite dal and some pita bread.
Jock, I would be very interested in also knowing more about that recipe you mention.