Pavakkay pitlai (bitter gourd sambar)

This is a traditional thick sambar type of a dish, but because of the slight bitterness of the gourd it is not favoured by some. Personally, I love it and even if it is bitter, the health benefits of this vegetable, especially for diabetic patients, far outweigh the slight bitter taste. Fortunately my family loves this and so it is featured frequently at our table.

Ingredients 
Bitter gourd medium sized – 3 
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Tamarind – size of 1 small lemon and make 2 cups tamarind water with the pulp 
Curry leaves – 10
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Tuvar dal – 1/2 cup 
Salt – to taste

For the spicemix
Urad dal – 1 tbsp
Chana dal – 1/2 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 3 tbsp
Dried red chillies – 3 or 4 to taste
Grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Oil – 1 tbsp

To temper 
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Oil 1 tsp

Cut the bitter gourd into 1 cm cube pieces removing any mature seeds. Add sufficient water to cover the bitter gourd and add a spoon of salt. Set on stove and allow to cook in salt water till almost done. It will froth at the top as this process gets rid of most of the bitterness. My father never liked this process because he doesn’t like any of the medical properties to be diluted. This process can also be done by mixing salt with the gourd and keeping aside for some time. Some people use tamarind water also to remove the bitterness.

Cook the tuvar dal in the pressure cooker with some water. Mash well and keep aside. In a kadai add the tamarind water and add the washed chana dal. When it cooks (about 5-10 mins) add the turmeric powder, salt, curry leaves, cooked tuvar dal and the cooked bitter gourd. Allow to boil.

Get the spice mix ready by roasting all the ingredients (except coconut) in 1 tbsp oil. When golden brown add the coconut and fry for a minute. Grind to a fine paste when cool and add to the pitlai and mix well. Keep on low flame and allow to boil till it all comes together. Temper with mustard seeds, urad dal and asafoetida in 1 tsp of oil. Serve with hot rice and ghee. Serves 4

There is always some confusion between the recipe for rasavangi and pitlai. In our family we have four differences.
1. No cooked tuvar dal in rasavangi
2. No pepper in spice mix for pitlai
3. More coriander seeds in spice mix for pitlai 
4. No roasted grated coconut in tempering for pitlai 
This varies from family to family. But it all tastes great. So enjoy!

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