A complicated sounding name essentially meaning bitter gourd in tamarind lentil gravy. This dish from southern Indian cuisine resembles dhal more than curry and is served over rice with a dry curry on the side.Bitter gourd as the name suggests is a vegetable that is bitter, and looks like cucumber with a splotchy skin. Although bitter, this amazing vegetable is touted to be a fantastic health food. Its benefits are said to range from helping diabetics in reducing blood sugar to increasing blood circulation which in turn improves metabolism. It also helps in lowering blood pressure and is even said to improve eyesight.
This vegetable, because of its bitterness, usually gets a bad reputation and you hear people claiming that they never touch this vegetable. But with the right spices and in the right dish, this vegetable can actually turn out very tasty. One such dish is the pahakai pitla kozhumbu which is a traditional south Indian dish that brilliantly incorporates this vegetable along with a mixture of spices in a manner that makes the most vehement critic of this vegetable, at the very least, rethink their criticism.
Ingredients and method to make Pahakai Pitlai kozhumbu
3/4 cup Split Pigeon peas/tur dhal pressure cooked in 1 cup of water
small lime sized tamarind soaked in water and juice extracted (yielded about 2 1/4 cups of tamarind juice)
5 small bittergourd skinned, de-seeded and cut into thin 1/4 inch slices (yielded about 1/1/2 cups sliced gourd) (see notes)
salt to taste
Dry roast and grind
4 tsp split yellow chick peas/ chana dhal
2 tsp split black gram lentil/ udad dhal
3 tsp coriander seeds/ dhania
4 dry red chillies (or according to taste)
3/4 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) (optional)
1/4 tsp whole black pepper (optional)
2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (or frozen coconut thawed to room temperature) (optional)
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida (hing)(optional)
Pressure cook the lentils/ dhal in water until soft and mushy.Usually takes me 3 whistles in the pressure cooker. If using a stove top cook the lentils in sufficient water until the lentils are soft and mushy and keep aside.
Soak tamarind in water, enough to submerge the tamarind, for about 20 to 30 mins. In a hurry I soak the tamarind in enough water and heat it in the microwave for about 15 to 20 seconds. Press the tamarind and extract the juice and strain and pour the juice in another bowl. Repeat the process with the tamarind again to extract all the juice from it. Discard the pulp and seeds of the tamarind.
Dry roast each of the spices separately mentioned in dry roast and grind EXCEPT coconut. Powder together in the spice grinder until fairly fine, then add coconut (if using) and a few spoons of water and grind again to a fine paste. This way the lentils grind finely and will blend well with the kozhumbu
Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, add mustard seeds to it, when the mustard seeds start spluttering add asafoetida.
Then add the tamarind juice and the sliced bitter gourd and salt to taste and allow it to boil until the bitter gourd is cooked and the tamarind loses its raw smell.
Add the cooked and mushed up lentils to this, mix well. Then add the coconut lentil paste to this and mix well.
Adjust water to achieve required consistency. Adjust salt to taste.
Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or two. Serve hot with plain rice and dry curry on side or just with rice and appalam/ popadums
Serves approximately 4
While selecting bitter gourd select younger ones as the bitterness of the vegetable increases as it ripens. The vegetable has to be firm all over and a dark green with no yellowing.
When skinning bitter gourd use a potato peeler to remove the skin lightly, do not remove it all the way through until you get to the white part, leave a little green on the veggie.
After skinning it, cut it in half lengthwise and remove seeds and then proceed with slicing it.
I have made this numerous times without the coconut and it tastes just as good so the coconut is completely optional.
This traditional dish is off to My Legume Love Affair-Ninth helping being hosted by Laurie originally started by Susan