Recipe for making Pavakkai/Bitter gourd Pitlai using One Pot One Shot method. Recipe for Pitlai Podi that can be prepared in advance and stored.
Even though we often link “Pitlai” to Tamil brahmin cuisine, it is interesting to note that there is no word called Pitlai in Tamil. The trajectory of this dish is linked to the heavy Maratha influence on Tanjore Tamil Brahmin cuisine along with dishes like Rasavaangi. I hear that “Pithla” is a relished dish in Marathi cuisine, and is often served with rice as Pithla bath or with their Bhakris. Today, the recipe/method I will be sharing with you is of the OPOS Bittergourd Pitlai, a family favorite.
This Pitlai podi/powder is the hero of this recipe. As a first step, make this Pitla podi. This Podi can be prepared in advance and stored up to a week outside in room temperature. It is very versatile and convenient podi. I use this podi as a substitute to red chili powder in making vegetable poriyals/stir-frys as well.
For the podi, make sure to roast the grated coconut separately and in low flame until light brown. The color needs to look the picture below – Also, if you plan on storing this powder, make sure to pulse or run the mixer in short bursts and grind to a coarse powder. Don’t run the mixer at a stretch, as this will result in lumps due to the roasted coconut releasing oils.
Prep for OPOS Pitlai
The base of the Pitlai is Tur Dal. As we will be making this recipe in One Pot One Shot method it advisable to soak the Tur Dal. Soak 1/4 cup of Tur dal in hot water for an hour.
I love to use peanuts in Pitlai as it lends a nice crunch/texture. This is optional. If you intend to use peanuts, please soak 1/4 cup of raw peanuts in hot water for an hour as well.
Also, soak gooseberry size tamarind in hot water. Make sure to remove the fibers and seeds as much as possible as we will be using the soaked tamarind as such to cook the Pitlai and will not be extracting the juice. If you have tamarind paste, then you can substitute 1 tablespoon of Tamarind paste here.
Chop the 1 medium size bittergourd into medium chunks making sure to remove the seeds and the pith.
Layer and Cook
Now onto cooking the Pitlai in One Pot One Shot method. Take a 3 liter pressure cooker, and add the soaked tur dal (wash and drain the soaked water), 2 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder.
Next take an inner vessel that can comfortably fit into your 3 liter pressure cooker. It would be great if you have a perforated vessel like the one shown here. Otherwise use any vessel that would comfortably fit into the 3 liter pressure cooker. Place the inner vessel on top of the Tur dal. Add chopped bittergourd, soaked, drained peanuts, 3 tablespoons of the Pitla Podi/powder, 1 teaspoon jaggery powder, soaked tamarind/tamarind paste, Salt per your taste.
Now, secure the pressure cooker lid, fix the whistle and cook on medium-high heat (900w in induction stove) for 5 whistles. Let the pressure settle fully and then open the cooker. Remove the inner vessel carefully and set aside. Transfer the cooked tamarind pulp (from the inner vessel) into the dal , blend the dal base either using a electric hand blender or using the back of a spoon. This is to make sure the dal is mashed well. Now, add the contents of the inner vessel into the dal base and mix thoroughly.
Heat 2-3 teaspoons oil in a pan. Add 1 teaspoons mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add a pinch of asafoetida, 2 dry red chilies, a bunch of curry leaves. Add this tadka to the Pitlai.
Serve Pitlai with hot rice and ghee.