It goes without saying that Paavaka (bitter gourd), is the most disliked vegetable of the household. My kids would ensure that the bowl containing fried paavaka, would be placed at the end of the line of dishes. While the rule in the house was to finish all that was served on the plate, I could never get them to savour paavaka.
Well, I couldn’t give up. That’s when I used to prepare and serve them the ‘different’ Sambar, that they relished!
All I did was mince the paavaka and make them unrecognizable and douse it in the famous ‘pitalai’ gravy. My little secret remained with me for years.
So ladies and gentlemen, cook up this wonderful recipe that is an important preparation for many of the annual tam bram functions and is at the same time, very healthy. May my little but very useful secret do wonders for you!

Pavakkai— 1

Tuar dal— ½ cup

Fresh coconut— ¾ cup

Dhaniya— 1 ½ tsp

Channa dal— 1 ½ tsp

Whole pepper— ¾ tsp

Dry red chilli— 2

Asafetida— 2 small pcs

Mustard seeds— 1 tsp

Turmeric powder— ½ tsp

Tamarind— small lemon size

Jaggery— 1 tbsp

Salt— 1 ¼ tsp

Oil— 3 tbsp

Few curry leaves.


Soak tamarind in 1 ½ glass of water and remove the pulp. Pressure cook the tuar dal. Wash the paavakai, cut it length-wise and remove the seeds from the center. Now cut the paavakai into small pieces. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan ,add the paavakai and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the tamarind pulp, add turmeric powder, salt and cook the paavakai. Take another pan heat one tbsp oil and fry the whole asafetida first, the add the dhaniya, channa dal, pepper and red chilli and fry till the dal changes colour. Grind together the fired ingredients with ½ cup of coconut to get a fine paste. Once the paavakai are cooked, add the jaggery and cooked tuar dal and boil it for a minute. Now add the grounded paste.Add extra water to get the right consistency of that of a sambar, allow it to boil for 3-4 minutes. Heat the remaining oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds, when they start to splutter add the curry leaves and the remaining coconut, fry till the coconut turns red in colour. Add this to the boiling pitla and put off the heat. Paavakai Pitla is ready.


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