Ever heard of the never-ending list of positives of a vegetable... yet hated it with a passion? As it happens, on my list of vegetables having the best benefits ...and also having the worst taste on my tongue, is a vegetable that never features in any of my dreams... Bitter Gourd (Pavakka in Malayalam or Karela in Hindi).
But, you know, life's all about challenges; no pain, no gain; champions don't quit and all that. Also, it just so happened to be the only vegetable I could get my hands on when creativity struck. Parents are a HUGE fan of it.
Pavakka Theeyal - Why I Chose This Recipe
In Kerala's climate, bitter gourd, or pavakka, grows abundantly; many homes, in fact, have it growing in their backyard! Which goes to show just how well-loved this vegetable is in Kerala. So, as you'd expect, there are a colourful myriad of ways to prepare this vegetable. This particular recipe I've chosen, seeing as I don't fall under the "Malayalis (i.e. people from Kerala) who love bittergourd" camp, aims to fight bitter with bitter. I did it more on a whim because honestly a vegetable theeyal of any kind is a party in the mouth. The fact that it works even for bitter gourd is the best thing ever because both the depth and infusion of flavours are next level.
What is a "theeyal"?
For a bit of background, 'theeyal' is a side dish that goes deliciously well with rice... or anything else you want to use to mop up the entire plate of flavour-bomb goodness. Its flavour base comes from a mix of spices along with roasted coconut (in "the land of coconuts" coconuts feature in almost every Kerala-style dish - go figure!): coriander seed powder, dried red chili, fenugreek and tamarind.
So here we are, fenugreek giving us that bitter bite and tamarind (not pictured) spicing things up a bit with its sourness. With that grated coconut helping to fuse together all the spices, it gives a ridiculous (ridiculously good) depth of flavour. Et voilà, we have ourselves a MUCH more palatable (for me at least) bitter gourd dish!
Ok, so it may seem like I've talked it up a lot, but seriously, you guys need to try this!
Also, pics or it didn't happen - tag @ayurfit on insta!!
1. Fry the coconut till golden brown. Add chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, fenugreek and mustard seeds. Continue frying till dark brown, take care not to burn it. Once cool, grind it. Then, gradually add 1/2 cup water. Keep it aside.
2. In a microwavable container add bitter gourd, onion, ginger, garlic and chilli. Steam it in microwave for 4 minutes. 3. Heat coconut oil in large pan and saute the steamed bitter gourd for 4 minutes. Add the tamarind and salt. Add 1 cup water and mix well. Once you bring to a boil, reduce to lowest flame, cover and cook for 7 minutes. At medium flame, add the ground coconut mixture and mix well. Bring to boil. Reduce to lowest flame, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. Remove from flame. 4. To garnish, heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds. Once it pops, add red onion, curry leaves and dried red chilli. Fry till the onion becomes golden brown. Add this to the dish. 5.Let rest for 20 minutes and serve!