Thursday 23 August 2012

"Thithai Thaka Thaitho" - Bitter Gourd/Paavakka Theeyal

I'm sure most of you have already started preparations for a grand Onasadya and the celebration as a whole. Mums must be busy-bees entertaining the little kiddos at home who are having an absolute bash with Onam holidays going on. Well for us in Bangalore, the home-made Onasadya session is already over and I can't wait to eat an authentic yummy Sadya made by a professional Sadya caterer. I don't think I have ever missed an Onasadya till now. I am always excited when I have to go for an Onam meal because to me that is one of the tastiest meals you can ever get.

Though I did say I cooked up an Onasadya, I must admit I did not prepare all the dishes you will find in an authentic spread. It was more a mini Sadya than a grand Onasadya! I still have more to go and hopefully will add more dishes to the Sadya list in the coming months. I also had a great time with cousins over the weekend and together we enjoyed a second round of Sadya. The greatest part about cooking food is sharing it with the people you love and the smile on their faces after they have finished the meal is so worth it! A special thank you to my awesome hubby, Reju (who also helped me organize this spread) and lovely cousins Naveen, Tania, Shon and Lisha who so politely devoured the whole meal. I was so thrilled to see the huge green banana leaves licked perfectly clean!

Today I decided to share with you the next Sadya side-dish that I prepared, the Paavakka Theeyal. Theeyal is yet another typical Kerala dish made with roasted coconut. It can be prepared with a host of vegetables like pearl onions, eggplant, yam, drumstick, snake gourd, long beans, raw cashew, bitter gourd and many others. And today I have for you, Bitter Gourd Theeyal/Paavakka Theeyal.

Bitter gourd cooked in a delicious tangy and roasted coconutty sauce is sure to be a great hit and is an absolute die-for. Do add this to your Sadya menu and you will not regret it for sure.


Bitter gourd/Paavakka (finely sliced) - 2 (medium)
Pearl onions/kunjulli (finely sliced) - ¼ to ½ cup
Coconut (grated) - 1 and ½ cups to 2 cups (refer notes)
Chilly powder - 2 tsp 
Coriander powder - 2 to 3 tsp
Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Fenugreek powder - ½ tsp
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 3 to 4
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Tamarind - size of a lemon
Salt - to taste 
Coconut oil - as required

For the Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 and ½ tsp
Mustard seeds - ¼ tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Dry Red chillies – 2


Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Extract its juice and set aside.

Fry the grated coconut in a pan till it becomes golden brown (be careful not to burn it), stirring continuously at medium heat. Lower the heat and add the spice powders – chilli, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek powders and stir for a few seconds. Make sure not to burn them as this will result in bitterness and loss of flavour. Leave to cool. Grind to a very fine paste without adding water. (if it’s really difficult to grind, you can add a little bit of the tamarind extract) Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the sliced bitter gourd, pearl onions, green chillies and few curry leaves and saut’e (on a medium flame) until the bitter gourd is half done or until raw taste disappears. Add the tamarind extract, enough water (just to cover the bitter gourd pieces) and salt. Bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling add the ground coconut paste and mix till combined well. Lower the heat and cook until the bitter gourd is fully done and the gravy thickens.

Preparation of Seasoning

In a small pan, heat coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. (make sure you don’t burn any of the ingredients) Pour this mixture over the curry. Combine well. Cover with lid and set aside for 15 minutes. Serve hot with rice.


1. You can always adjust the quantity of coconut used. But remember coconut enhances the flavor of the dish.

2. Bitter gourd can be replaced with any of the following veggies: Eggplant/Vazhuthananga, Snake Gourd/Padavalanga, Pearl Onions/Kunjulli, Drumstick/Muringakka, Elephant Yam/Chena etc…

3. If you are preparing snake gourd, drumstick or elephant yam theeyal, you don’t need to saut’e these veggies in oil. Just cook the pieces in enough water, sliced pearl onions, turmeric powder, salt, tamarind extract, curry leaves etc… and add the ground coconut paste. When done, pour the seasoning over the curry.

4. You can avoid pearl onions if you are preparing it for Sadya. (I added it because I love the flavor of pearl onions)

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