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Viji Varadarajan

The Story

An iconic dish in a TamBram home

A celebration of a feast with a family calls for this first course dish. It is served with steaming hot rice and dal with a dollop of ghee as the final flourish. This dish with various sides is eaten ...

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This is a favorite in many a Tamil home. This dish calls for a special celebration - generally for a religious event at home. In a traditional Tamil home, adding boiled chick peas or cut and cooked jackfruit seeds to this curry is a tasty and healthy option. I have used pre-cooked frozen dal for this recipe. Hence the preparation time is cut short. Tasty Tip: To remove the bitter taste, you may add half a teaspoon of brown sugar to the boiling gravy. Or, you can scrape the skin with a peeler to remove some bitterness. Serve this healthy dish with rice and a dollop of ghee and with a vegetable of your choice. Pitlai Podi is a special grainy powder used in a Tamil Brahmin home.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins



  • 226 g bitter gourds
  • 1/2 cup pigeon peas / thuvar dal
  • 1 1/2 tsp tamarind purée
  • 1 1/2 tsp pitlai podi powder
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida / hing powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 10 medium curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp oil

Pitlai Podi

  • 2 tbs freshly grated coconut
  • 2 tbs coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp bengal gram / chana dal
  • 6-7 whole dried red chillis


  • Cook the pigeon peas to a soft mash. (Look up for instructions of cooking details in the beginning chapter). Quarter the vegetables discarding the inner seeds. If the seeds are soft, you may cook them along with the vegetable.
  • Boil the vegetable in water, adding a little salt, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Heat oil, pop the mustard. Add cooked lentil, tamarind sauce, pitlai powder and the vegetable.
  • Simmer, stirring the mix for a couple of minutes until it turns into a sauce. You may soak and boil the chickpeas until soft and add to the sauce. Squeeze crushed curry leaves, add and stir for five seconds.
  • For the pitlai podi - roast each ingredient separately adding oil in your pan. Roast them over a low flame until each bring out their aroma and change color. Blend them to a grainy texture and voila 'the pitlai podi' is done!
Course: Main
Cuisine: Indian

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