Brah Cuisine · Vatha Kozhambu, Poritha kozhambu & Pitlai Varieties

Pavakkai Pitla / Bittergourd Pitla

I know I know!! My unintended break from food blogging turned out to be quite a long one. Though I had initially planned to make some time for blogging, but could not keep up as planned, because of my higher studies and internship work. But I would always think of coming back to food blogging one day or the other. A few of my friends, special mention here would be a very good friend of mine, Chanpreet of Food Food kept on prompting me to come back to food blogging, which was definitely a good boost to me. After what seemed like two whole years, I happened to check my blog and all those wonderful messages that i received made me so grateful and happy, as well as other food blogs with a lot many lip smacking recipes and amazing food photographs made me to start blogging again. It might not be the perfect post with best food photos, but I still want to be here blogging after a long time with a rather new recipe.

Pavakkai Pitla - 02

A very simple curry or a gravy dish, called as ‘Pitla’, which is one of the most commonly made dish at my home. This, Pavakkai Pitla is an authentic, traditional Thanjavur Tamil Brahmin dish. My paternal grandma used to make this for my father, who loves this pitla a lot. My mum makes this pitla just like my grandma. But while growing up, i was not a big fan of this dish. In fact, while growing up, I used to hate the Pavakkai, called as Bittergourd in English, because of its bitter taste. During childhood, i used to like only the deep fried bitter gourd poriyal and chips, which is just similar to the French fries, since after blending with spices and deep frying in oil, it has less bitter taste and is more crispier. But as time went on and i grew up, i started liking the Pavakka sambar – both the arachuvitta sambar and plain sambar, as usual the fried pavakka poriyal and chips, and also the Pavakka Pitla as well.

One thing I noticed in this traditional Pavakka pitla recipe is that, the roasting and grinding of spices, the use of grated coconut, as well as the inclusion of  jaggery and dhals (that include the pressure cooked and mashed toor dhal and split channa dhal), which on the whole takes away the bitterness of the bitter gourd, resulting in a mildly flavored gravy.

Pavakkai Pitla - 01

This is a recipe I learnt from my mom, which she learnt from my late paternal grandmother. It is a fairly simple recipe, but with the addition of roasted and ground spices, grated coconut and a combination of two dhals makes it very unique. The ground spices with coconut forms the base of the pitla and sharp bitter taste of the bitter gourd is balanced by a little bit of jaggery included at last. A few red chillies are used to spice up a little. In fact a simple delicious food at its best, and serve it with some hot rice drizzled with ghee along with Papad or Vadam makes it a very comforting meal.

Pavakkai Pitla - 03

Pavakkai Pitla / Bitter gourd Pitla

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 40 mins

Serves: 4

Recipe Category: Kozhambu & Pitla varieties

Recipe Cuisine: South Indian-Thanjavur Tamil Brahmin


Bitter gourd – 4

Toor dhal – ¼ cup

Split channa dhal – ¼ cup

Tamarind – 1 gooseberry sized

Jaggery – 1 tbsp

Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp

Salt – as needed

To Roast and Grind

Oil – 1 tsp

Coriander seeds – 2 tbsp

Fenugreek seeds / Vendhayam – 1 tsp

Hing / Asafoetida – A pinch

Red chillies – 2 – 3 nos.

Black peppercorn – 1/4 tsp

Channa dhal/Kadalai paruppu / Split Bengal gram dhal – 2 tbsp

Grated coconut – ¼ cup

Curry leaves – 2 sprigs

For Tempering

Oil – 2 tbsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 1 (Optional)

Curry leaves – 2 sprigs


  1. In a small pan, heat 1 tsp oil and add all the ingredients in ‘Roast and Grind’ section, and fry till it turns golden. Remove from heat, cool and grind to a smooth paste by adding little water and set aside.
  2. Soak tamarind in one cup hot water and extract pulp.
  3. Pressure cook the Toor dhal and split Channa dhal with a pinch of turmeric powder up to 2-3 whistles. Then mash the dhal well and set aside.
  4. Wash and cut the bitter gourd and discard the seeds and pith. Then cut them into round shaped small pieces, which is neither too thin nor too thick pieces.
  5. Put the cut bitter gourd in a vessel with a glass of water and allow it to boil until it is half-cooked and then remove from the stove and allow it to cool. Once it cools down, discard the water. Add cold tap water, mix well the bitter gourd pieces in water with hands and discard the water. Do this one to two times, in order to remove the bitterness of the gourd.


  1. Heat a heavy bottomed kadai, add the bitter gourd pieces.
  2. Add the tamarind water and turmeric powder, and allow it to boil, until the raw smell goes off.
  3. Now add the ground paste and bring it to boil.
  4. Once it starts to boil, add the mashed dhal, salt and mix well, and see to it that the pitla is in a medium thick consistency.
  5. Then add a tbsp of jaggery and allow it to boil for 4 – 5 minutes and remove from heat.
  6. In a tempering ladle, heat oil, add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. Then add the curry leaves and pour over the pitla.
  7. Serve the pavakkai pitla with hot rice drizzled with ghee and papad or vadam.

Pavakkai Pitla - 04


  • Make sure you clean the bitter gourd and remove the pith.
  • You need to cook the bitter gourd with water and remove the water or do leaching.
  • You may use other vegetables such as brinjal, ash gourd instead of bitter gourd.
  • Instead of split channa dhal, you may use whole black channa, or chick peas or peanut or mochai or any other seeds of your choice, but that might take away the authentic charm to the dish. However, once in a while it is fun to try and taste with other ingredients and combinations.
  • The consistency of the pitla should be thicker than the sambar.


Pavakka or bitter gourd, a very common vegetable in Indian cuisine, offers a variety of benefits. A powerful nutrient dense plant composed of a complex array of beneficial compounds, that include bioactive compounds, vitamins such as A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, B9, minerals such as potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, dietary fibre, and high antioxidant properties conferring bitter taste due to the presence of phenols, flavonoids, isoflavones, thereby contributing towards treating a wide range of illnesses. Certain compounds isolated in this vegetable activate an enzyme that regulates the glucose metabolism, and thereby helps diabetics.


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