Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pitlai, Pawakkai Pitlai ;)

This vegetable surely deserves to be introduced like James Bond :) I've always loved karela/bitter-melon/pawakkai thanks to my grand-mom. One of my favourite preparations of bitter melon is curry made with tamarind. The bitterness remains but is so less compared to other pawakkai preparations. This preparation is one of my all-time faves. I'd come back from half-day school on Saturday to be greeted by Pati with steaming rice, ghee and this curry. I'd just lap it up and eat more and more :) However, my granny - my dad's mom is from Karnataka, a Tamilian from the Karnataka side. So, we never, never made stuff like vethal kuzhambu, parippu usli, pitlai, and many such very Tam preparations. If made at all, it was for a special occasion! So much so that when I learned to make vethal kuzhambu before my marriage (its one of my faves!) and I told A ( an accomplished cook!) proudly that I'd made 'Puli Kuzhambu' ( that is what we call it at home) he went on to tell me that he makes it every now and then and that it is actually Vethal Kuzhambu. He even gave me suggestions to make it better! And here I was, always thinking that Vethal Kuzhambu was some exotic, tough dish to prepare :)

When I got married to A, though they've been all over the country, the South Indian food that my mother-in-law comes up with is very Tamil and super-tasty. I rediscovered my Tamil genes with A ;) Started speaking better Tamil, cooking more South Indian food, learning more about the Tamil cuisine. This is one such preparation: Pawakkai Pitlai. A loves this, and bought this vegetable from the Farmer's Market and asked his mom for the recipe. The wonderful cook that he is, he cooked this for us one night for dinner. Along with this, he made another Tamil classic - Uruzhakizhangu Masaal (another post, another time!) because I cannot eat rice with a curry! And this is how our dinner looked. Absolutely decadent, and high up there in terms of taste and memories :)

1lb bitter-melon/Pawakkai
1 cup of tamarind extract
1/4 cup Tuvar Dal
2 tbsp Channa Dal
1-2 tbsp Sambar Powder
3-4 tbsp grated coconut
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp red chillies
1tsp urad dal
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp asafoetida/hing
1tsp curry leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

1. Pressure-cook the Tuvar and Channa dals until well-done and mushy.
2. For tamarind extract - you can either use the tamarind paste that you get in the US, mix it with some water, and make it a concentrated liquid. If you are using just tamarind, soak a lemon-sized ball in hot water and let it be. Oh, make that a big lemon ;) Once it cools down, squeeze the tamarind and make a concentrated liquid again.

3. Skin and deseed the bitter-melon and cut into 1- 1.5 inch pieces lengthwise.

4. Roast the coriander seeds, red chillies, urad dal and the pepper. Add coconut and grind it into a smooth paste. Do not add too much water. Just a little to allow it to grind.

5. Now add the tamarind extract in a large bottomed kadai/pan, throw in the salt and the turmeric and the Sambar powder and bring it to a boil. Note that this thickens the mixture, so keep adding water to keep the consistency gravy-like.

6. Add the cut vegetable to this mixture, let it cook in the tamarind mixture for some time. Allow it to cook on slow flame until thoroughly done.

7. Add the dal mixture now, and mix well and let it cook for another 5 mins

8. Add the ground curry paste to this mixture and allow to cook until it come to a boil. Now, add the sugar to balance the taste. Allow for 2 more mins.

9. In another pan, prepare for the tadka. Fry the mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves in hot ghee/oil and add to the Pitlai. And your Pitlai is ready to be served with steamed rice.

I know this seems like a long list of ingredients and the cooking steps are long too! However, this is one of the simplest traditional recipes I've tried and its a favourite now :)


Mittal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Madhavi said...

Hey...oh I missed many entries on ur blog :(( nyways this curry look delicious, yummy yummy entry !!!

Nags said...

wow! this is a cool gravy! but i might put something other than pavakkai in it :D

evolvingtastes said...

bitter gourd pitlai is huge favorite of mine - and i am not even tamilian. :-)

Swati: Sugarcraft India said...

The curries look so delicious.. Home food is always the best :))

delhibelle said...

The gravy looks amazing..however like nags I also might try it with some other veggie:)

Shreya said...

Hi Nandu, what a coincidence! I too prepared bitter gourd masala curry yesterday! Just posted it, and Naga commented that you too did the same! Well, I like your recipe more, as it also has Dal in it. Will try for sure, when I make bitter gourd masala again:-)

Aparna said...

This is a staple in my home. I love parikkai (that's what we call it)but my husband and daughter don't. But pitla is the only way they'll both have it!


yummy curry ... I too love south indian food .. its the best ..

Adam said...

Very cool. I like the mix of the different tastes, with the heat, the bitter, and the sweet. The gravy looks delicious. I have to try and find something like that around here :)

Suma Rajesh said...

this curry looks awesome. i nevr make curry our of bittergaurd...this looks perfect..happy belated friendship day..

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I've never eaten bitter melon, but I'd be willing to try! That dish looks wonderfully flavorful!



Sukanya Ramkumar said...

WOW... This is a very nice recipe. Lovely color...

Rachel said...

Pavakka..gosh running away miles from this :)

PG said...

Looks lovely! Very tempting indeed! I love bitter melon, haven't eaten in a long time now.

Divya Vikram said...

am drooling over this recipe..Nice one..

Cakelaw said...

This dish is new to me, but sounds and looks very nice indeed.

Dhanggit said...

brilliantly written post and a lovely recipe!!what could i ask for more :-)

Jayashree said...

I just had pitlai for lunch today....I make it slightly differently. Yours looks super tangy and yum.
BTW, I've tagged you for a meme. Pls chk my blog for details.

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Whenever I come here I notice how little I know about indian food. There's so many things I've never heared of. It's interesting to know how some people's food memories are other people's new discoveries, that's why I love blogging!
Thanks for the tasty sounding recipe!

Usha said...

This is the only way I like pavakkai too,especially when my mom in law makes it,yours looks delicious :)

Dibs said...

Hee Hee! James Bond intro for pavakkai pitlai ? Have you seen these funny avtaars on yahoo international? we could use one of them to announce this >> "Pitlai...Pavakkai Pitlai ...I likes.. Mind it.. yuhaahahaha"

Dibs said...

Hello A & N - have an award waiting for you at Chitra Amma's Kitchen. :-)

Dershana said...

Hi A & N,

Thanks a bunch for stopping by my blog. Love your bittergourd curry!

The bitter, sour, sugary combo is a thriller!

Raaga said...

As I call it "memory food".