Bitter Melon Pachadi | Paharkkai Thayir Pachadi

There are two types of Bitter Melon (also called Bitter Gourd) – a light green Chinese variety and a dark green Indian variety (Karela).Β  Both melons have the same hardiness and bitter flavour. The only real difference is the appearance. Indian bitter gourds are narrower than the Chinese type, rather like a zucchini. They have irregular ridges and triangle-shaped “teeth” all over the surface of the skin, along with slightly ragged ridges. Chinese ones can grow more more than 25cm long and they have blunt ends. Broader than Indian gourds, they have light green skins dotted liberally with wart-like bumps rather than teeth. Both types have thick skins and white seeds.

Luckily, both types are available to us locally. I have used the Chinese type in this dish, but either variety could be used. The Indian varieties would be more traditional.

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Pitlai | Toor Dal with Vegetables

Pitlai is a South Indian recipe using some basic vegetables and cooked in a coconut-based gravy with specific spices that have been fried in ghee. It sits close to Poritha Kuzhambu and Poritha Kootu, but the spice mix varies from these.

South India adores its rice, and so the different cuisines of the South include a huge range of gravy-like dishes that are ladled over warm rice to be mixed and enjoyed. It makes sense, right? Rasam, Sambar, Kuzhambu, Kootu etc are the most common. Pitlai sits in that group too, and some will say it is a type of Sambar and others will say it is a type of Kuzhambu. Meenakshi Ammal sits her Pitlai recipes within her Poritha Kuzhambu and Poritha Kootu section – those with a fried spice mix/ paste. The dish varies slightly from any of the above – in consistency, spices used, and the vegetables that are added – bitter gourd and eggplant are definite favourites. Like the other Poritha dishes, it is the ground paste of spices, the coconut, and the predominance of lentils, that serve to thicken the dish. A tiny amount of rice flour can help if needed.

Pitlai includes coriander and Bengal Gram in its coconut-based spice paste, and this is the difference from the Poritha Kootu and Poritha Kuzhambu pastes. As I say about South Indian dishes – change out one spice and the dish has a different name, a different way of eating, a different time of day to eat it and different vegetables to include in it. πŸ™‚

Pitlai is made all over South India and each region will have its own interpretation of the dish. This is a recipe from the Tamil Brahmin Cuisine.

Are you looking for similar recipes? TryΒ Brinjal Asadu, Poritha Kootu with Sambar Powder, Simple Poritha Kuzhambu, Sampangi Pitlai, Poritha Kuzhambu with Chilli and Cumin,Β  and Poritha Kuzhambu with Amaranth Leaves.

Are you looking for other Kuzhambu? Try Green Chilli Kuzhambu, Masala Kuzhambu with Gram Flour Vadai, and Tomato Kuzhambu.

Why not have a look at all our Kuzhambu dishes, and all Kootu. All of the Sambar dishes are here. Browse the Meenakshi Ammal recipes. Or take some time to explore our easy Early Autumn dishes.

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