Go Back
+ servings

Pavvakai Pitla : Bitter gourd Sambhar with freshly ground spices

Pavvakai Pitla or Bitter gourd Sambhar with freshly ground spices is the best ever sambhar I have tasted. Slightly laborious to make but every bit worth it.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine south indian
Servings 4 servings


  • 2 bitter gourd medium, use 4 if using the baby variety
  • 1/2 cup toor dal
  • 1/4 cup channa boiled black (optional but recommended)
  • 1 tbsp tamarind
  • 1/2 tbsp jaggery
  • to taste salt

To be ground in paste

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp urad dal
  • 1.5 tsps channa dal
  • 3 - 4 chillies Red
  • 1/4 cup coconut (grated)

For the tempering

  • 2 tsps ghee (or use oil if you want this vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek seed
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves


  • 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.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!