Cook's Hideout: Pavakkai Pitlai (Bittergourd Coconut Curry)

February 10, 2016

Pavakkai Pitlai (Bittergourd Coconut Curry)

Blogging Marathon# 61: Week 2/ Day 1
Theme: Meal Ideas
Dish: Bittergourd Pitlai
My theme for this week's Blogging marathon is probably one of my favorite. It is 'Meal Ideas', Valli wants us to showcase a complete meal even if that means sharing just one recipe. Coming up with a plan for a meal is quite an exercise for the brain which is why most of us try to delegate the task to the family by asking, 'what do you want to eat today?' I am one of those people who will ask this question and then reject almost everything that is being requested, only on very rare occasions a suggestion is actually cooked. But I don't fail to ask the question ;-)
Bittergourd pitlay
Coming from south India, most of our meals revolve around rice, so for the next 3 days, I'm going to share some interesting meal ideas with rice as one of the component.
For today I have a simple south Indian thali meal (clockwise in the above picture) with rice, bittergourd pitlai, cabbage poriyalswiss chard dal, pickle, yogurt, chips and ghee.
The recipe for this pitlai is from Dakshin by Chandra Padmanabhan. This is a spicy, tangy, slightly sweet and absolutely delicious dish. I loved how all the different flavors complement each other. Adding toor dal to bittergourd is something very new to me and it gives the required protein to the dish. It tastes awesome after a few hours when the flavors get a chance to mingle. 

Bittergourd Pitlai
  • ½cup Toor dal
  • 2~3 Medium Bittergourd, finely chopped
  • 2~3tbsp Tamarind pulp
  • 1 Medium Tomato, chopped
  • 2tsp Sambar powder
  • ½tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1tbsp Powdered jaggery
  • 1tbsp Oil, divided
  • 6 Dry Red chilies
  • 1tbsp Coriander seeds
  • ½tsp Peppercorns
  • 1tsp Chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
  • 1tsp Urad dal (Black gram dal)
  • 2tbsp Grated Coconut
  • ½tsp Asafoetida/ Hing
  • 1tsp Mustard seeds
  • 8~10 Curry leaves
  • To taste Salt
  • 2tsp Ghee
  • 6 Cashews, halved
  • ¼cup Coconut Milk
  1. Pressure cook toor dal until soft and mushy. Set aside.
  2. Make Spice paste: Heat 2tsp oil in a pan, add dry red chilies, coriander seeds, chana dal, urad dal and hing. Cook till the spices are fragrant and lightly change their color. Grind into a smooth paste along with grated coconut. Set aside.
  3. Fry the cashew nuts in 2tsp ghee and set aside for garnish.
  4. If desired, par boil the bittergourd until tender along with some yogurt or tamarind paste. This step is not required, but if you want to expedite the cooking process do this otherwise just proceed with the recipe.
  5. In a pan, combine bittergourd along with tamarind paste, 1cup of water, sambar powder, turmeric, salt and jaggery. Simmer on a low heat till the vegetable is tender.
  6. Add the tomato and the ground spice paste and simmer for couple more minutes. Add the cooked dal and simmer till well blended.
  7. In a small pan, add 1tsp oil and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add to the pitlay.
  8. Stir in the coconut milk and turn off the pitlay. Garnish with fried cashews. Serve hot with rice.
Bittergourd Pitlay

Lets check out what my fellow marathoners have cooked today for BM# 61.


  1. Very interesting recipe. The meal looks delicious and hearty.

  2. Bittergourd with toor dal sounds very interesting.Love the whole platter.Very comforting and delicious spread.

  3. love the meal presentation. And yummy pavakkai dish!

  4. This pittlai looks mom makes it all the time. And I also ask my family what they want and proceed to reject every suggestion!

  5. I guess every at plays the 'what's for dinner' quiz. Whatever be the answer, its 'chefs choice' tha will be served finally! But I am sure your choices are good, so keep on it everyday :-)

    Lovely clicks as always!

  6. Wat a beautiful platter, pavakkai pitlai is just inviting me.

  7. Pavakkai pitli is my favorite and I definietly make some when I bitter gourd.

  8. That is a very filling platter, Pavani.

  9. Your thali looks so inviting and I love the mood that sets in..I recently had made this pitlai and enjoyed it so much, even though I don't eat karela..

  10. Awesome thali Pavani. Love bitter gourd in any form and this pitlai looks so yum..

  11. if only I liked bitter gourd....but the whole thali presentation looks beautiful


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