Pitla ~ Pavakka/ Bitter Gourd Sambar

Pavakka( bitter gourd) is definitely not one of the most popular vegetables especially among kids. I was also one of them but have grown to like its bitter taste keeping in mind its health benefits. The bitter gourd is a powerhouse of nutrients, being an excellent source of several vitamins, iron, folic acid, phosphorus and dietary fiber. More details can be found here.

2 medium pavakka (bitter gourd)
1/2 heaping cup toor dal (yellow lentils)
1/4tsp turmeric powder
6tbs fresh grated coconut
1 1/2tbs coriander seeds
15 peppercorns
6-8 dry red chillies or to taste
a small ball of tamarind
salt to taste
1sprig curry leaves
1-2tbs oil

For the tempering:
1tsp oil
1/2tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies

Wash the dal in several changes of water. Add double water, turmeric powder and some salt to the dal and pressure cook or cook in an open pan till soft and mushy.
Soak the tamarind in some warm water and extract all the pulp.
Slit the pavakkas into two and deseed them. Wash and slice thinly. Place the pavakka pieces in a pan, add salt, cover and cook till all the water that is released has evaporated.
Add the oil and fry till brown and crisp. Keep aside.
Grind together the coconut, coriander seeds, peppercorns and red chillies with some water to a smooth paste.
Mix together the dal, coconut paste, tamarind water, curry leaves and salt to taste.  Add sufficient water to adjust the consistency. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8-10mins stirring frequently.
For the tempering, heat oil and add mustard seeds. When they splutter add the red chillies. When browned pour over the pitla.
Stir in the fried pavakka just before serving with rice.


Sending this to

Ashwini's "Lentil's Mela


  1. Ha..I just posted our Nadan sambar now..This is totally new to me..my hubby would love it ..:)

  2. Wow delicious sambhar..looks great??

  3. oh,my favourite..I started eating BG only after marriage..I just love this pitlai..We do with mooong dal.Love ur version..will try it out soon:)

  4. i hated pitla when i was a child...but now ive grown to like it..soo reminds me of home now!! :(

  5. never made sambar with bittergourd. Looks interesting. Nice tempting pic.

  6. Great entry for both events. Pitlai sambhar looks delicious. Wish I could get some bitter gourd here. Enjoy! :)

  7. I'm a big fan of pavakkai.. i usually make a fry (or roast them in the oven) or a curry with onions and tomatoes - never tried the pitlai though i've heard good things about it. Looks yummy.

  8. I have a bag of bitter gourd in my freezer (I love bitter anything)- would I be able to use it for this recipe or is fresh essential to the success of the sambar?

    This is a lovely recipe, Poornima. I am so intrigued by it. Thank you for joining in MLLA8!

    The round-up will be online in a few more days.

  9. Thank you all...
    Susan, frozen bitter gourd may not be as crisp when fried, otherwise it should be fine...waiting for the round-up.


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