Wednesday, May 8, 2024



Mainly because of its health benefits, I often make dishes with Bitter Gourd in my home. I use it because though it is bitter as the name suggests, we find it to be very tasty and as mentioned it has many health benefits. It is very strong in Vitamins A and C and helps reduce blood sugar. 

Bitter Gourd is commonly available all over India and is known as Haggalakai in Kannada, Pavakkai in Tamil, Karela in Hindi, and Kaarathe in my mother tongue, Konkani.

Elsewhere in this blog, you will find recipes for some yummy dishes made with bitter gourd such as:-

Today's recipe is for a Pitlai made with Bitter Gourd. In Tamilnadu cuisine, Pitlai is an accompaniment -which is thicker than sambar- for hot steamed rice. 

We enjoyed this a few days ago for lunch and I hope you will like it too! 


  • Pavakkai (Bitter Gourd), 2 medium size
  • Tur Dal, (Split Pigeon Peas), 1/3 cup
  • Brown Channa, 1/4 cup
  • Tamarind, size of a small lemon
  • Salt, to taste
For the Pitlai Masala;
  • Coriander Seeds, 1 tbsp
  • Bengal Gram (Channa Dal) , 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Byadgi Red Chillies, 4 
  • Raw Rice, 1/2 tsp
  • Fresh Coconut Gratings, 1/4 cup
  • Oil, 1 tsp- to fry the ingredients before grinding 
For the Seasoning:
  • Mustard Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek Seeds, 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chilli, 1, broken into halves
  • Asafoetida, 1/8 tsp
  • Curry Leaves, 1 sprig
  • Oil, 2 tsp

Wash the bitter gourd, snip off the two ends and cut the bitter gourd into roundels
Discard the seeds if they are not tender
Apply a little salt to the roundels and keep aside. After 15-20 minutes, squeeze the water out of the bitter gourd. 

Soak the tamarind in lukewarm water for about 10-15 minutes and extract the juice, discarding the pulp 

Soak brown channa for 6-8 hours or overnight. Later, discard the water
Cook the soaked channa in a pressure cooker with adequate fresh water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

In the same pressure cooker, in a separate container, cook the tur dal in adequate water for 3-4 whistles or till done. 

Once the cooker cools, remove the cooked brown channa and the cooked tur dal and keep aside.
Mash the cooked tur dal. 

Heat oil in pan and on medium heat roast the coriander seeds, Bengal gram, red chillies and raw rice. When the dal changes colour, add the coconut gratings and fry till they turn golden 
After it cools, transfer to a mixer jar and grind to a smooth paste adding a little water. Keep aside

In a thick bottomed kadhai, heat 2 tsp of oil  and on medium heat add the mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the fenugreek seeds, broken red chilli, asafoetida, and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. To this add the bitter ground roundels and saute for a few minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water and cook the bitter gourd covered on medium heat, stirring from time to time, till they get done

Now add the tamarind extract, cooked channa and salt to taste and mix well 
Cook for about 5 minutes till the raw smell of the tamarind goes. 

To this add the mashed tur dal and the freshly ground Pitlai paste and the required amount of water to get the desired thick curry like consistency 
Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 3-4 minutes

Switch off the gas and transfer to a serving bowl
Serve the Pavakkai Pitlai with hot steamed rice

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