Scrub and wash bitter gourds well. Top and tail them. Cut them open vertically. Scoop out all seeds and membranes inside. Slice them under a cm thin. If necessary, cut once more vertically to give smaller sized slices. I like to pressure cook them in a vessel without extra water for 7 minutes under pressure for fast, nutrient-loss free cooking. You can either microwave or boil the pieces in salted water. Once the cooker has cooled, remove and keep aside.
In a non stick kadhai, heat oil and add asafoetida first. Immediately, throw in all the whole spices for tempering. Stir just until they start spluttering and changing colour, don''t brown / burn any spices. Add the sesame seeds last if using, stir for a minute, until it starts spluttering.
Add the moong dal soaked for about 15 minutes in hot water as it is, or coarsely ground. Stir along with the spices on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup water to this along with all remaining spice powders/ pastes. Stir around for a minute. Cover and less the dal cook for around 5 minutes. We don''t want it to turn mushy, just soft.
Next add the cooked slices of bitter gourd, salt and jaggery. Stir well to coat with spices. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Adjust salt and red chilli powder after tasting.
Garnish with fresh coriander. Serve hot with dal & rice or with chapatis / parathas and a bowl of yogurt or kadi (that''s what I had for lunch).