Monday, June 16, 2008

Bitter Melon And Okra Puli Pachadi (Bitter Melon and Okra In Sweet/Sour Tamarind Sauce)

You might think 'bitter'-melons and okra would contribute to a resounding Double Yuk!! Not to worry, I guarantee that okra will be not become slimy at all because the acidity of tamarind prevents that tendency :). Okra was one of our favorite childhood vegetables since I can remember.

The bitter tang of bitter melon is positively delectable and even addicting because of the way all the flavors of sweet, sour, hot, salt, and bitter mingle and meld. I love this pachadi with any rice/roti-dal-curry combination and especially with Yogurt Rice or Pongal.

Pachadi is a traditional South Indian vegetable side dish and no feast is complete without some type of pachadi. There are two kinds of pachadis: sweet/sour ones and savory. The sweet/sour Puli Pachadis are usually vegetables cooked in a tamarind sauce with a little of the Indian Brown Sugar called Jaggery or Gur and seasoned with various spices. The savory Thayir (yogurt) Pachadis usually include cooked or uncooked vegetables in seasoned yogurt. Actually, in Kerala the savory yogurt preparations are called 'kichadi' to distinguish them from the sweet or sweet/sour pachadis.

Bitter melons are popular vegetables in Indian Cuisine not only because of their delicious taste, but also their great medicinal properties. According to the principles of Ayur Veda, the ancient science of health, Bitter Melons are beneficial for curing or controlling many a malady.

Okra, or Lady Fingers (or Bindi or Vendakai in Hindi and Tamil respectively) are considered to be good for brain growth and development. Okra is also very beneficial to health with its abundant content of soluble fiber as well as a bevy of other nutrients - not only a rich source of fiber, but good source of vitamins A, B, C and K, and minerals. Soluble fiber is what binds excess serum cholesterol and roto-roots it out of the blood vessels and out of our system.

Whatever the facts regarding their health benefits are, this is a winning combination!


2 medium Bitter Melons (Parikkai)
1/2 lb fresh tender Okra
2 tsp Tamarind paste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt or to taste
2 Tbsp Jaggery (Brown Sugar) or to taste
1 or 2 hot Green Chilies
1/2 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds, dry roasted and ground

Slurry: 1/4 cup water and 1 tsp rice flour


2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida (Hing)
1 Dry Red Chili
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves


Wash and dry the vegetables. Cut off ends of bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds if they are not tender, and cut each half in half. Slice thinly into quarter circles.

Cut off stems ends of okra and slice thinly.

Cut off the stem ends of the chili and make a slit on the cut end.

Combine the cut veggies with salt, turmeric, tamarind, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook covered over medium heat until tender.

Stir in the Jaggery and the rice-water slurry and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and sprinkle the fenugreek powder on top. Cover.

Make thalippu by heating the oil with the mustard seeds and chili; when mustard seeds pop, sprinkle the asafoetida and add the curry leaves and cover quickly. Pour the thalippu over the veggies.

Set aside for about 10 minutes to meld the flavors.

Mix well and serve hot, cold or at room temperature with rice, dal, plain yogurt, etc. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

God this sounds good. I would like to try it tonight because It is my turn to cook. Call me a coward but I am going with the tried and true tonight.

I intend to make this meal for myself before I try it on someone else firs.

Geetha said...

Hello Anon, I think it is a marvelous idea to try it out before you cook it for others. I hope you like it. Bitter melon is an acquired taste but this pachadi is a good intro to bitter melon as well as okra. Adjust the amount of Jaggery (brown sugar)so that the pachadi has a balanced sweet-sour taste. I would love to hear your feedback.