Pagarkkai Thengai Paruppu Curry (Bitter Gourd Coconut Lentil Curry)

I know that many people are not fans of bitter gourd (bitter melon). However, if prepared well, it does not taste bitter at all. In fact, it is a very tasty and versatile vegetable. It is a staple in my home during season. I love experimenting different dishes with this vegetable, though my all-time favourite is the stuffed karela (bitter gourd). Here is a wonderful Tamizhnadu preparation that is simply superb. No bitter taste at all!

2 cups bitter gourd, chopped fine
1/2 cup pigeon peas (tur dal, thuvaram parupu)
1 marble sized ball of tamarind
Salt to taste
A pinch of turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
1 1/2 tsp split black lentils (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
2-3 red chillies, each broken into two pieces
A pinch of asafoetida (hing, perunkayam)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tbsp grated coconut
Cook the pigeon peas in a pressure cooker with just enough water for about 4-5 whistles
Let the steam release and open the lid
The pigeon peas should not be mushy or grainy – somewhere in-between
Set aside
Wash the chopped bitter gourd and boil in a pan of water (this will remove the bitter taste)
Boil till the bitter gourd is almost done
Drain and set aside
Extract a thick juice from the ball of tamarind, using about 1/3 cup of water
Add this to the cooked bitter gourd
Add a little water
Add salt and turmeric powder
Cook on a low flame
Stir occasionally
Remove from flame when all the water has evaporated
Set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the split black lentils
When the lentils begin to turn golden brown, add the red chillies and asafoetida
Roast for a few seconds
Add the cooked bitter gourd and the pigeon peas
Mix well
Add curry leaves
Garnish with grated coconut and remove from flame
Serve hot with red/brown rice

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