• Preeth C.Vijay

Pavakkaai Puli Kuzhambu/Bitter Gourd Curry

As a kid, i completely had an aversion towards pavakkaai (bittergourd) as most kids would be. But as i grow i tend to fall for the taste of it, the bitterness and the simplicity of this vegetable tasting perfect in whatever way you cook it. I love the small version of Pavakkaai, we call it midhi pavakkaai, a tempering with mustard seeds and dry red chillies, tossed with pavakkaai and cooked to perfection, midhi pavakkaai poriyal used to be my favorite anytime.

And my recent love for Pavakkaai has doubled with this simple version of puli kuzhambu. I was little skeptical to make this kuzhambu but then when Vijay insisted on making it and with assurance that it would taste delicious, made me go for it. I browsed through lot of recipes and finally adapted my version of it. This pavakkaai puli kuzhambu is a recent hit at home, and trust me even my kid loves it. She would have a spoonful of this curry without rice.


Shallots 15

Garlic 10 cloves

Bitter gourd 1 ( thinly sliced)

Tomato 1 chopped

Tamarind one big gooseberry size

Sambar Powder 1.5 tablespoon

Chilli powder 1/2 teaspoon

Water 2 cups

Salt as needed

Jaggery powder 2 teaspoon

To temper

Kari vadagam 1 teaspoon ( highly recommended for the flavor, but optional)

Fennel seeds 1 teaspoon

Fenugreek 1 teaspoon

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Seasame oil 5 tablespoon

To Grind

Coconut (grated) 3 tablespoon

How to start?

Grind Coconut into a smooth paste. Soak tamarind in hot water 5 minutes, and squeeze the extract, discard the pulp. Thinly slice the pavakkaai (bittergourd) either vertically or into thin discs based on your preference.

Heat a kadai with oil. Once the oil gets hot, add kari vadagam, fennel seeds, fenugreek and curry leaves. Now add the thinly sliced bitter gourd and fry it for at least 5 minutes, until it changes color and turns little crisp. Add in the shallots and garlic, fry it for 3 minutes.

Add the chopped tomato and salt. Let the tomato get mashed well. Now add the sambar powder and chilli powder, fry it for a minute and add the tamarind extract. Add in 2 cups of water,mix well and check for salt and spice. Close it with lid and cook for 10 minutes on medium flame.

After 10 minutes, open the lid and add the ground coconut paste. Add around of 1/2 cup of water and let the gravy cook for another 5 minutes on medium flame. Check the gravy consistency. This kuzhambu has to be slightly on a thicker side. Add 2 teaspoon of jaggery powder and simmer the flame for 5 minutes until oil floats on top.

Serve the lip smacking pavakkaai puli kuzhambu with hot rice and appalam.


Frying the Bittergourd after tempering is must as that ensures well cooked, and it slightly reduces the bitterness, releasing more flavor into the oil.

Shallots and garlic gives the best taste, so ensure you do not compromise on it.

You can also deep fry the bitter gourd and add it to the gravy once the tamarind water is added.

Jaggery balances the flavor in the curry. So do not skip it. You can also use sugar in place of jaggery.

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