• Preeth C.Vijay

Pavakkai Pitlai/Bitter Gourd Curry

Pitlai is a south indian based curry cooked with dal, vegetables, freshly ground spices and roasted coconut. While bitter gourd and birnjal are the main vegeatbles used in making pitlai, any choice of mixed vegetables can also be used as per you preference. The authentic pitlai recipe calls for cooked brown chickpes added to the gravy, but then i didn't add, as i ran out of it. Adding chick peas to the gravy gives a good byte, so i would advise to add it if you prefer.

While we all think of the bitterness and get skeptical about tasting it, bitter gourd cooked this way with dal delivers the best flavours of the vegetable. The gravy is little spicy, tangy, sligtly bitter and also has a tinge of sweetness with jaggery added at the end.


Bitter gourd 2 thinly sliced

Toor dal 1/3 cup

Tamarind 1 small lemon sized

Turmeric powder 1/4 teaspoon

Jaggery 2 teaspoon

Salt as needed

For the Masala

Coriander seeds 3 tablespoon

Red chillies 10

Bengal gram 2 teaspoon

Urad dal 2 teaspoon

Black pepper 1/2 teaspoon

Grated coconut 1/2 cup

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Oil 2 teaspoon

For tempering

Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon

Urad dal 1/2 teaspoon

Curry leaves 1 sprig

Asafoetida 1/4 teaspoon

Oil 3 tablespoon

How to Start?

Pressure cook the toor dal for 4 to 5 whisltes. Soak the tamarind in hot water and extract the juice. Discard the pulp.

Heat a kadai with 2 teaspoon oil, and roast the ingredients given under "For the masala" except coconut and curry leaves until the dals turn golden brown. Add the coconut and curry leaves at this stage. Saute for a minute, and set aside. Let it cool.

Grind this roasted mixture into a smooth paste by adding water.

Now heat a kadai, add 3 tablespoons oil. Temper with mustard seeds, urad dal, curry leaves and asafoetida. Add thinly sliced bitter gourd and roast on medium flame for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add a cup of water and cook until the bitter gourd turns little soft. Now add the tamarind extract, ground masala and salt. Add 1 to 2 cups of water depending the consistency you prefer. Let the gravy cook for 5 minutes on medium flame.

Add the cooked dal and give it a good mix. Check for salt. Simmer and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Add jaggery, garnish with coriander leaves and switch off the flame.

Serve hot with rice.

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