Pavakkai pitla/Bitter Gourd in Tamarind Coconut Gravy.

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Pavakkai pitla is one of the curries my father loves a lot. Grandma used to make it often whenever she got some pavakkai or bitter gourd. This is a part of traditional Tamil Brahmin cuisine. While growing up I hated bitter gourd, as it name suggests they are bitter to taste. As a grown up however I became a fan of bitter gourd, when I ever see them in the market, I will buy them. There are two varieties of bitter gourd, one is Indian one and other is Chinese one. I don’t like the Chinese one. I love the Indian one. You can make chips, juice or a tasty curry with them. Read more about Bitter gourd/ from here
Pavakka/ Bitter gourd has immense health benefits; it help to cure toxemia, it contain a hypoglycemic compound which helpful in lowering sugar levels in blood and urine in diabetes mellitus. Due to its high beta carotene content it helps in improving eyesight and eye problems etc read more from here.
My hubby loves bitter gourd chips when it is baked with chili powder and salt. Grandma was one of the great cook I have seen in my life. Even if she made just a curry with raw onion and red chili and salt with little bit coconut oil, it tasted great and you could eat a bowl full of rice with that or even a dozen dosa( pancake) . Appa always used to tell my mom that you have to learn cooking from my mother, poor mom she tried to cooks grandma’s recipes, and even though it was good she got complaints that it was not as great as grandma’s. Grandma makes even bitter gourd a delectable dish. However I was not able to learn from her, but I learnt this recipe from Raji Akka when I visited India last time. She is a good cook and taught me this curry by cooking it for me. It contains toor dal, tamarind and bit of jaggery for slight sweetness. Here is  the recipe.

What you need

 Bitter gourd/Pavakka: 3 no (Washed, seeded, chopped into cubes)
Toor dal : 1/3 cup
Tamarind: small ping pong ball sized
Salt: ½ teaspoon or to taste
Turmeric: ¼ teaspoon
Oil: 1 ½ tablespoon
For seasoning
Mustard seeds: ¼ teaspoon
Asafetoida: ¼ teaspoon
Oil : 2 teaspoon
Curry leaves: 1 sprig( about 10 no)

For roasting and grinding
Oil : 1 teaspoon
Grated coconut: 4 tablespoon
Red chili : 3 no
Pepper cons: ¼ teaspoon
Chana dal: 2 teaspoon
Urad dal: 1 teaspoon
Coriander: 2 teaspoon
Rice: ¼ teaspoon

How I made

Soak the toor dal for 30 minutes. Wash and pressure cook the dal with 1 ½ cup water for 3 visiles. Set aside.
In sauce pan heat 1 ½ tablespoon of oil and fry the pavakka or bitter gourd pieces for 5 minutes.To this add ½ cup of water , salt and turmeric. Let it cook for another 10 minutes.
In the mean time in a small skillet heat one teaspoon of oil and roast chana dal, coriander seeds, urad dal, pepper corns , Red chili until raw smell is removed and nice aroma is released this takes about 2 minutes and set aside. I prefer to roast them one by one. In the same pan add coconut and fry until they turn slight brown in color. Keep aside. Once everything is cooled grind everything into a coarse fine paste. And set aside.

Heat tamarind with ½ of cup of water in microwave at high for 15 seconds and extract juice and set aside.
Once the bitter gourd pieces are cooked then add tamarind juice and jaggery bring it to a boil. To this add ground paste and mashed cooked toor dal and again boil for 2 minutes or until spices are distributed uniformly.

In mean time heat a small skillet and add oil and mustard, asafetodia, curry leaves and when mustard seeds start spluttering remove from the heat and add it to bitter gourd curry.

Enjoy with  hot rice.

Preparation time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 serving
Verdict: Yummy
Will you make it again: Yes I will


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  1. says

    wow, such a yummy looking curry.. Am drooling here and would love to have it with piping hot rice and ghee….

    -RV (

  2. says

    Have never made bitter gourds this way … but they are my favorite. I like the combination of tamarind and jaggery , will try this for sure!! btw nice entry for the event :)

  3. says

    I am a huge fan of bitter gourd made this way. It make me nostalgic and reminds me of mom and home.

  4. says

    Oh that coconut gravy looks delicious! And I love those little bowls where you serve curry in. Whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I always want to get one of those for myself! :)

  5. says

    aah! thats a good recipe Swathi. I do not like bitter guard but my mother often insists me to eat it. As you said about your grandmother; my mothetr is also the best cook in this world for me.

    She likes bitter guard recipes a lot and I would sugest this recipe for her.

    This recipe is something similar to the one we call as “inji teeyal”. It has some differences like the masalas and all but the method is the same.

    The picture of the recipe looks thick and delicious, if I do not think of bitter guard in it. 😉

    One question: “Why do you think that frying all the ingredients one by one is preferred”? Any logic behind this?

  6. says


    I fry everything individually because i can control the degree of the frying in each ingredients otherwise urad dal will become brown early than chana dal etc.

  7. says

    Hey i think this is the perfect one for rice…..good combination….i rarely does such varieties with bitter gourd…and now i got a new recipe with it…thnku so much for it…