Sunday, November 2, 2008

Parikkai Pitla (Bittermelon and Lentil Stew With Coconut and Tamarind)

Parikkai Pitla is a classic South Indian stew which is a gentle and delicious introduction to Bitter Melon. Although we were not fans of bitter melon as young children, we loved the Pitla where the bitter melon flavor was quite mild. Initially we used to pick out every piece of the bitter melon; but as we got used to the taste eventually, grew to love the bitter melon for itself. This is another recipe from Amma.

You can also use an equal mixture of toor dal and yellow mung dal; or use red lentils also known as skinless masoor dal.

4 Servings


1 tsp Oil for sauteing
1 medium bitter melon (parikkai)
1/2 cup Toor dal
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Tamarind concentrate
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp Jaggery (Brown Sugar) (Optional)

Spices for grinding:

1/2 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp whole Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
2 tsp Urad Dal
2 tsp Coriander Seeds
1 small pea size chunk asafetida or 1 big pinch powdered asafetida
1/3 cup grated fresh Coconut or 3 Tbsp dry unsweetened
1 Sprig fresh Curry Leaves

1 tsp Ghee/Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Sprig fresh Curry Leaves


Sort dal to remove any debris. Cook the dal in about 1 to 2 cups of water until very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes. Dal can be cooked in a pressure cooker to speed up the cooking process.

Roast all spices for grinding in a tiny bit of oil, add coconut and the curry leaves last and cook until coconut is golden. Cool and grind using a blender into a fine paste with about 1/2 cup of water.

Wash and dry the bitter melon. Remove ends, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds if they are mature and slice thinly into semicircles.

Saute the bitter melon slices with 1 tsp oil, a pinch each of turmeric and salt for 5 minutes.

Combine bitter melon, tamarind, 1 cup of water and salt to taste. Add jaggery if using; it adds a nice balance of flavors. Bring to a boil and cook until veggies are tender.

Stir in the ground paste and the dal into the bitter melon; swish the blender container with about 1/3 cup of water to get all of the spices and pour into the pot and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

Prepare thalippu: Heat the ghee/oil, add the mustard seeds. When the mustard finishes dancing and popping, remove from heat and stir in the curry leaves carefully.

Pour thalippu into the pitla. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot over plain hot rice or roti with papadams or other vegetable side dishes and plain yogurt.

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