BITTER GOURD IN TANGY SAUCE / Paharkai Pitlai

The Story
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 off a banana leaf in family gatherings or when priests come home to chant the vedic rites. Its truly amazing and is considered a celebratory dish. I am definitely assuming that there is no parallel to the Pitlai Powder or the Sambar Powder in the Indian cooking diaspora. They are healthy and extremely flavorful. Passion and perfection play a large part in cooking and preparing these Tambram dishes. They are indeed food fit for the Gods.

BITTER GOURD IN TANGY SAUCE / Paharkai Pitlai

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

Ingredients

Curry

  • 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

Seasoning

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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!