Paavakkai pitlai

Bittergourd as the name indicates, it is a bitter vegetable. So most of us have an aversion towards this vegetable. But it is an excellent source of Vitamins, magnesium, zinc, folic acid and manganese. It is very popular throughout South Asia. In Northern India, it is often prepared with potatoes and served with yoghurt on the side to offset the bitterness, or used in sabji. So in North India, recipes are made by stuffing it with spices and cooking in the oil. In Southern India, it is used in the dishes thoran (mixed with grated coconut), theeyal (cooked with roasted coconut) and pachchadi. A special preparation by Palakkad brahmins is called paavakkai pitlai  a kind of gravy which is very popular.



Tamarind – 1 lemon size

Too dhal – 4 tbsp

Bittergourd – 1/4

Jaggery – small piece or a pinch

Turmeric powder – A pinch

Salt – As required

For Grinding

Channa dhal – 2 tsp

Black peppercorns – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 1

Coconut – 4 tbsp

For tempering

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Curry leaves – few


  • Pressure cook the toor dhal, tamarind and bittergourd in three separate vessels.
  • Extract tamarind juice and keep aside.
  • Mash the toor dhal well.
  • In a kadai, add 1 tsp oil and fry the channa dhal, grated coconut, red chillies, black peppercorns.
  • Sprinkle little water and grind the above ingredients to a smooth paste.
  • Now in a vessel, add one drop of oil and splutter mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add curry leaves.
  • Then add the extracted tamarind juice, bittergourd, salt jaggery and turmeric powder.
  • Allow it to boil.
  • Now add the ground spices and mashed toor dhal to it.
  • Allow it to boil.
  • Finally add Asafoetida.
  • Mix this with hot rice and eat.


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