Pavakkai Pitlai ( Bittergourds in a gravy )

Bittergourds do not find many takers on account of the lingering bitterness in the dish,but there are so many interesting ways to prepare them , to make them more appetizing.

Pavakkai Pitlai is my favourite , a Palakkad speciality actually, so my mom who is a true blue Palakkad born brought up unfailingly amazed us with this dish. So at a very young age we loved the dish and never bothered about the faint bitter taste . As kids we actually relished this and now I do the same, make it very often and my daughter loves bittergourds!!.Thanks to Pavakkai Pitlai  and other bitter gourd recipes which my mom churned out.


2 bittergourds
1/2 cup toor dal
sprigs of curry leaves
1 small lemon size tamrind.
pinch of turmeric powder.
salt to taste.
Pinch of asafoetida powder.
1 tsp jaggery

To  roast and grind

6-8 red dry chillis
3 tbsp dhania seeeds /coriander seeds
2 tsp udad dal
2 tbsp chana dal
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut

For tempering

2 tsp oil/ preferably sesame oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds


Extract juice from tamarind by soaking in some warm water.

Chop the bittergourd  to thin slices after removing the seeds. Keep the bittergourd slices smeared with salt and keep aside for some time.

Cook the toor dal in a  pressure cooker and mash it when cool.

In  a pan add some oil and roast ingredients mentioned under roast  and grind.

Let the dry ingredients turn golden , do not roast the coconut at this stage.

After roasting the dry ingredients, roast the coconut , curry leaves and asafoetida till they become golden brown and aromatic.

Now when all the ingredients have cooled down, grind to a paste in the mixie and keep aside.

Take  a a pan and first sautee the chopped bittergourd pieces after squeezing out the salt water as they would have removed some bitterness after marinating for sometime. Suteeing also helps. to reduce the bitterness . Keep it aside.

Extract tamrind water around 1 1/2 cupscurry leaves,, and after spluttering the mustard seeds with some oil , add the sauteed bittergourd pieces, asafoetida, salt ., turmeric powder,pinch of asafoetida powder,and allow the mixture to boil for few minutes  till the raw smell disappears,, then add the mashed toor dal the ground paste and  stir well, reduce the flame and allow the mixture to boil for couple of minutes.

Remove from flame and serve hot with rice.

Health benefits of Bittergourds

Bitter gourd is a popular vegetable in some Asian countries, where the health benefits of the plant are well-known—particularly, its ability to lower blood glucose in diabetics. Bitter gourd has been used to treat diabetes in traditional medicine and is now commercially available as tea (from fruits or leaves), juice, extracts, and pills. 

Although these products promise health benefits, most of the manufacturers do not offer scientifically proven data on the effectiveness of bitter gourd or their products. However, in recent years researchers worldwide have started to focus on the antidiabetic effects of bitter gourd. The goal is to provide safe and clear preparation and dosage recommendations so that consumers will realize the greatest benefit from consuming fresh bitter gourd or bitter gourd products.

Bitter gourd treatments of cell cultures or feeding trials with laboratory animals such as mice or rats show bitter gourd does have blood glucose lowering properties. Bitter gourd is not like most medicinal drugs, which are effective only in one target organ or tissue; rather, it influences glucose metabolism all over the body.

Bitter gourd can play a role in the prevention and treatment of Type II diabetes, which is also called insulin-independent diabetes or adult onset diabetes. This form of the disease usually occurs in people who are overweight and inactive. In Type II diabetes, the liver, skeletal muscle, and fat tissues do not respond adequately to insulin—they are “insulin resistant.” 

Feeding trials with insulin resistant or Type II diabetic rats and mice have shown that bitter gourd helps to prevent or reverse insulin resistance . People with insulin resistance or those with a high risk of developing Type II diabetes have a good chance to prevent and treat the disease without drugs by increasing their physical activity and changing their diet.