Pitla is popularly known as Pavakkai Pitlai or Pavarkaai pitlai which is a traditional south Indian dish especially prepared in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is a very healthy dish with bitter melon (known as Karela in Hindi, Pavakkai in Tamil and Kakarakaaya in Telugu) and consumes little oil. This is a dish that is prepared at least once a week in most of the households in South India.
Pavakkai Pitla or Bitter gourd in spicy gravy is a very delicious and nutritious dish considering the high medicinal and nutritional values of the bitter melon. Pavakkai Pitla is prepared by cooking the bitter melon or bitter gourd in a tangy tamarind lentil gravy and served with hot rice as a side dish. The bitter melon is usually bitter but in this dish the bitterness is reduced by adding the tamarind juice, dal and coconut to make it a mouth watering side dish.
The Bitter melon curry or popularly known as Pavakkai Pitla is a favorite dish to many even to those who don’t like bitter gourd as they are so deliciously cooked with other spices that mellows down the bitterness. Regular consumption of the bitter gourd or karela is very good for health as it has lots of nutrients and valued for its high medicinal properties. 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.
There are different variations in making the Pitlai also using eggplant, drumstick, unripe tomatoes etc and in few households where kids hate the taste of bitter melon, prepare this dish adding fried papads and small koftas made of urad dal to make it more attractive, delicious and this neutralizes the bitterness.
To prepare the Pitla, cut the vegetables sliced long and pressure cook except for the bitter melons. Pressure cook the dals in water until soft, mushy and keep aside. Soak tamarind in required quantity of water for about 20 to 30 mins. Squeeze the tamarind well and extract the juice, 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 and grind to a fairly fine powder. Heat oil in heavy bottomed pan and fry the karela nicely. Add the tamarind juice, salt, little haldi powder, hing (asafetida powder) and allow boiling well till the karelas are 3/4th cooked. Later add the roasted ground masala pate and the cooked dal to the karela tamarind mixture and mix all the ingredients well. Adjust water as per the required consistency and adjust salt to taste. Bring to boil and simmer for few minutes. Lastly add tempering of mustard seeds, one dry red chilli, a handful of groundnuts (optional) and curry leaves.
Serve hot with plain rice as a side dish along with raita. Although bitter, this amazing Pavakkai Pitlai dish is touted to be a fantastic health food. Do try eating some amount of Karela in the form of vegetable, curry or fries in your diets to get all the benefits. For the detailed recipe, click the link:
Bitter Melon, also known as Balsam pear is a truly unique and bitter ingredient that is not well known in the United States. Used widely in Indian cuisine and many people peel off the upper skin to reduce the bitterness but this bitterness is very good for health as recently few researches have stated that it stimulates the production of insulin and recommends a regular intake of this vegetable.
Bitter gourd is an excellent source of vitamin B1, B2, B3, C, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, and has high dietary fiber. It is used in treating diabetics and is also a blood purifier. Cooked in combination with brown chick peas and tur dal makes it very tasty and reduces the bitterness. Normally in authentic recipe, brown chick peas are used although you can also add any bean seed of your choice. The consistency of this dish should be thicker than sambar. A very tasty and healthy accompaniment with rice!