Feb 20, 2010

Paharkai pitlai / Bitter gourd gravy- Tamilnadu style

When I made this for the first time a couple of years ago , I did not like the taste. Somehow the south indian spices did not seem to work well the bitter bittergourds!!I had made a similar thing with brinjals before, which tasted great , but it just did not work with bittergourd. I was a bad cook then after all!!!But anyway, I never excluded bittergourd from my diet. And when I think about the nutritional and health benefits of it, I simply can't avoid it. I make stuffed curries or mix them in spices to shield the bitter taste. Though I have never had an aversion for bitter taste, infact I always love bittergourd.
You can view here the nutritional and health benefits of the bittergourd.
I have tried number of ways to reduce the bitterness of the bittergourd. And the method which has worked really well for me is to mix the chopped bittergourd slices in turmeric powder and salt atleast for half an hour and then squeeze out the water from them.
After a long time, I decided to try the pitlai recipe again simply because I had no other veges in the pantry and I was planning a simple south indian menu for lunch. It came out really well and tasted good with rice and tomato rasam. I am sure now paharkai pitlai is going to be a regular thing at my place.
I am sending this to Yasmeen of healthnut who asks us to send bitter healthy food and join her in the bitter better journey which will help in learning more ways to implement these good foods in everyday cooking.

paharkai pitlai

Bittergourd- 2 big ones
Turmeric powder-1tsp
Tuvar dal- 1 cup cooked
Mustard seeds- 1/2tsp
Udid dal- 1/2tsp
Channa dal- 1tsp
Sesame oil- 2tsp
Sambar powder- 1tsp(optional)(If you want it little more spicy)
Salt to taste
Grated coconut-1tbsp(optional)
Curry leaves- few
jaggery - a small piece

For the paste
Tuvar dal-2tsp
Channa dal- 2tsp
Dried red chillies- 7 to 8
Coriander seeds- 2tsp
Tamarind- a small gooseberry sized lump
Sesame oil- 1/2tsp

Deseed and cut the bitter gourd in rings . Add some turmeric powder and salt and leave it for an hour.
Roast all the ingredients stated under "for the paste" (except the tamarind )in half a teaspoon of sesame oil till they turn golden brown.Switch off the flame and then add the tamarind. Cool and grind this to a fine paste adding few drops of water.
Now heat 2-3 teaspoon of oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, udid dal and channa dal and the curry leaves. Squeeze out water from the bittergourd.Add this to the pan and saute till they turn golden brown.Now add the ground paste. Pour 2 glasses of water. Add sambar powder if you want to. Add salt.Heat this till the gravy gets slightly thicker. Now add the cooked tuvar dal. Leave on flame for further 10 minutes. Add some jaggery and mix well.
Toast the grated coconut in some oil till it turns brown. Add it to the gravy. This is optional. I sometime make it without the coconut and it does not create much difference in the taste.
Serve with hot rice.
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