To make the masala - Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or kadhai. Saute coriander seeds, channa dal, urad dal and red chillies. When the dal is slightly browned, add the coconut and saute till it is toasted and lightly browned . Set aside for cooling. Once cool, grind to a paste adding little water if required. Keep aside.
Peel the bittergourd lightly to remove the hard crusted skin and cut them into rounds. I use the tender seeds but if the seeds are ripe and hard, I de seed the bitter gourd.
Take 1 tsp of oil in a pan and fry the bitter gourd slightly for about 4-5 minutes.
Soak tamarind in 1 cup of warm water, extract its juice and discard the pulp. You can use tamarind paste as well, since all tamarind pastes tend to work differently use equivalent quantity for a gooseberry size tamarind ball.
Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker. I let it whistle once and then reduce the flame and let it simmer for 3-4 minutes. If you like, you can add the bitter gourd along with the dal and boil. I like the crunch and I use the fried one without boiling. however, I think in the traditional recipe it is boiled.
To assemble, Heat 2 tsp of ghee and mustard seeds. When they splutters, add fenugreek seeds, red chilli, asafoetida, curry leaves and saute till they are fragrant and slightly browned. At this point add tamarind extract.
Bring to a boil and add boiled channa and bitter gourd (if not boiled along with toor dal). Bring to a boil again and add cooked toor dal, masala paste along with half a cup of water.
Simmer for 4-5 minutes so that the flavours are all absorbed.
Serve hot with steamed rice, palak stir fry and curd for a delicious, wholesome and satisfying meal.