Monday, April 21, 2014

Pavakkai Pitlai / Bitter Gourd Pitlai / Bitter Melon Pitlai with Sambar Powder

Pavakkai Pitlai is a spicy Indian curry with little variations from regular sambar. This Pitlai is not something common in every household. I heard about this recipe through some of my friends and ofcourse through blogosphere. 

I've made what all I can do to reduce the bitterness of the bittergourd. And finally, when I was eating it, I was very happy as its bitterness is almost gone. Now I can proudly say I can handle this vegetable well and good. Having made this for few times recently, thought why not have I tried this earlier. 

Those who are following my posts, (of course, I post very few ) would know that I cook bitter gourd at least once a week. And this recipe is going to be in my weekly plan at least for few months to come. 

Something that I really like about this recipe is there is no tomato added. I somehow, have the feeling nowadays why are we using tomatoes in almost all recipes. When I don't include tomatoes in a recipe (like Puli kuzhambu), it gives me a traditional feeling as tamilians (not sure about all other states) cooked curries only with tamarind and not with tomatoes; they got themselves included in our diet since just few decades.

Source: Vahchef


Bittergourd (Long) 1
Toor Dhal (Thuvaram paruppu) 1/2 cup
Channa (Kondai Kadalai) 1/4 cup
Sambar Powder 2 1/2 tbsp
Grated Coconut 1-2 tbsp
Grated Jaggery 1-2 tsp
Lemon sized tamarind - two (one for soaking; one for cooking)

To temper:

Mustard Seeds 1/2 tsp
Urad Dhal 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek Seeds 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves few
Chopped Pearl Onions 1/2 cup
Asafoetida a generous pinch
Turmeric Powder 1/4 tsp
Dried Red Chillies 2


Soak channa in water over night. Soak Toor Dhal in water for atleast half an hour. (Not necessary, if your toor dhal cooks faster.)

Cut bitter gourd into small pieces. Soak in tamarind water for atleast one hour.  

Meanwhile cook channa for 3-4 whistles in pressure cooker and keep it aside. Cook Toor Dhal for 2-3 whistles in pressure cooker and keep it aside. 

Chop onions. Grate Coconut and Jaggery. Grind grated coconut with little water to form a paste. Keep it aside.

Rinse the chopped bitter gourd with the water extracted from the same tamarind 2-3 times well.


Soak another lemon sized tamarind in water for at least 15 minutes. Extract the pulp using two cups of water.

Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add Mustard seeds. When they complete popping up, add Urad Dhal, Asafoetida, Turmeric Powder, chopped onions, slit dried red chillies and curry leaves. Fry till the onions turn translucent.

Now add the chopped and rinsed bitter gourd slices. Add little salt and fry for atleast 5 minutes. (This helps to remove bitterness). Add the tamarind pulp extracted using two cups of water. Allow boiling until it is cooked.

Now add the cooked toor dhal, channa, sambar powder, grated jaggery, salt and water. Mix well and when it is almost done, add the coconut paste and allow boiling until everything combines well to reach the desired consistency.

Serves: 3
Serve with any stir fry.


Do not cook bitter gourd along with other dhals. Cook it separately or as mentioned above.

Once cooked, add all the other dhals. Rinsing the bitter gourd with tamarind water 2-3 times and cooking with the tamarind pulp extracted helps to remove the bitterness.

This is off to South Indian cooking event at The Big Sweet Tooth.


Unknown said...

I love bittergourd and have them in my meal atleast once in a week. MIL had told me about pitlai many times but never gave an attempt. Guess boiling the bittergourd in tamarind water removes bitterness from this Gravy. whatever, it looks inviting and inducing me to try.

Sanoli Ghosh said...

Dal with bitter guard always very tasty. Very well goes with plain rice.

Rafeeda AR said...

this looks so good... would taste awesome with rice...

Priya Suresh said...

A fingerlicking pavakka pitlai curry, your clicks are killing me.

Shanthi said...

Lovely recipe...

virunthu unna vaanga said...

Super gravy aks... its in my to-do list, but still never attempt it... Nowadays, mom used to add pavakkai atleast twice in a week...

Shama Nagarajan said...

well prepared of my fav. curry