Nasi Kuning With Urap Urap Sayur| Indonesian Yellow Rice & Spiced Vegetables

I’m super excited to present this recipe for Nasi Kuning and Urap Urap Sayur to you all!

Nasi Kuning refers to a simple yellow rice that hails from Indonesia, prepared on special occasions like weddings, festivals and parties. The yellow colour comes from turmeric that is added to the rice, fragrant with the use of aromatics like bay leaves, pandan, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Considering Nasi Kuning is quite mild-tasting, it is served with very flavourful sides such as Urap Urap Sayur. This is a delicious spicy salad with stir-fried vegetables and a shredded coconut dressing, with notes of tangy and sweet – all in all, a flavour bomb.

How this Indonesian meal came about

The husband and I are big fans of Pan-Asian food, and enjoy home-cooked Thai food often. Thailand occupies a special place in our hearts, and I learnt to cook Thai for this very reason. When I recently got my hands on some fresh pandan leaves, I was reading up online for ways to use them, and came across a recipe for Nasi Kuning. Soon, I was reading about Urap Urap Sayur, one of the popular accompaniments to the rice dish in Indonesia. I was fascinated, and realisation dawned that, maybe, it was time to delve deeper into an Asian cuisine other than Thai. I went on to cook the rice-vegetable duo recently, and it was such a huge hit at home that I have made it thrice already. 🙂 I’m so glad this meal happened, and there is definitely more in store!

Indonesia, especially Bali, has long been on our list of places to visit. We are fascinated by the country, with its lush rice terraces, ancient temples and breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. The fact that the country has several delectable vegetarian and vegan foods to offer added to its allure. The pandemic has ensured that we cannot travel to Indonesia any time soon, but we can definitely make an attempt to get closer to the country via its food!

How to make Nasi Kuning

I adapted this recipe to make it a pressure-cooker version. This way, it’s a breeze to cook the rice, and it’s super delicious too.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 1 cup rice
  2. 1-1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 2-1/2 cups water
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  6. 1 bay leaf
  7. A 2-inch piece of lemongrass root
  8. 1 Kaffir lime leaf
  9. 2 strands of pandan leaves
  10. 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method:

1. Wash the rice thoroughly under running water. Drain the water.

2. Now, transfer the drained rice to a wide vessel. Add in the coconut milk and water.

3. Add in the salt, turmeric powder and sugar. Mix well.

4. Tear the pandan leaves and kaffir lime leaves. Cut up the lemongrass root roughly. Add these to the rice, along with the bay leaf.

5. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

6. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, wait for 10-15 minutes to open it and get the cooked rice out.

7. Allow the rice to cool off slightly, for another 10 minutes or so, then gently fluff it up. Your Nasi Kuning is ready.

How to make Urap Urap Sayur

I used this recipe as the base, and adapted it to suit my family’s tastes. I have used vegetables commonly available in India, so mine might not be an authentic version, but it surely tastes delectable! It’s super easy to put together too.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 2 small-sized carrots
  2. 10-12 beans
  3. 1/2 of a big red capsicum
  4. 1/2 of a big yellow capsicum
  5. About 1/2 cup cabbage
  6. 4 cloves of garlic
  7. 4 Kaffir lime leaves
  8. 2 green chillies
  9. A 1/2-inch piece of ginger
  10. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  11. Salt to taste
  12. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  13. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
  14. Juice of 1/2 (Indian) lemon or to taste
  15. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. We will start by prepping the vegetables required for the salad. Peel the carrots and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Remove strings from the beans and chop them into small pieces. Remove the core and seeds from the capsicum, and chop them into small pieces as well. Chop the cabbage into long strips.

2. Keep the grated coconut ready.

3. Now, we will prepare the spice paste required for the salad. Chop up the green chillies roughly. Peel the ginger and chop roughly too. Peel the garlic cloves. Grind together the green chillies, ginger, garlic cloves and kaffir lime leaves to a coarse paste, without adding any water.

4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chopped carrots and beans, along with some salt. Saute for 1-2 minutes on medium flame or till they start losing their rawness.

5. Now, add the cabbage to the pan, along with the capsicum pieces, along with salt to taste. Saute on medium flame for 1-2 more minutes or till the vegetables are slightly more cooked. You can sprinkle some water if the veggies feel too dry.

6. Add in the spice paste we prepared earlier, along with jaggery. Mix well. Saute on medium flame for a minute.

7. Now, add the coconut to the pan. Saute on medium flame for a minute more. By this time, the vegetables should be cooked, but not overly so, and should retain a bit of a crunch. Switch off gas.

8. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander.

9. Mix in the lemon juice. Your Urap Urap Sayur is ready.

Serving the Nasi Kuning

In Indonesia, Nasi Kuning is traditionally served in a tall conical shape. This is believed to be very auspicious, and finds pride of place on the table on special occasions.

The yellow rice is typically served with a number of side dishes such as omelette, Sambal Goreng (fried chilli paste), Ayam Goreng (Indonesian fried chicken), Urap Urap Sayur and slices of tomato and cucumber.

I put the Nasi Kuning into two large bowls, packed it tightly, and then inverted it onto two serving plates. I then arranged the Urap Urap Sayur all around the rice, on both plates, and kept some thinly sliced ‘seedless’ European cucumbers alongside too. We had bites of the rice mixed with the spicy salad, with the cucumber slices serving as a ‘palate cleanser’.

Tips & Tricks

1. Typically, jasmine rice is used in Nasi Kuning. However, I have used Sona Masoori rice here, as I didn’t have any.

2. I have used ready-made thick coconut milk from Thai Heritage. You can also make your own at home, instead.

3. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon how grainy you would like the rice to be. The same goes for the number of whistles you allow while pressure-cooking the rice. The above recipe works perfectly for us – it yields a well-cooked, not grainy but soft rice. I have used an 7.5-litre pressure cooker here.

4. I have used lemongrass root here. However, you can use leaves from the plant too.

5. Indonesian bay leaves are traditionally used in the rice. These, I believe, are slightly different from the Indian bay leaves. However, I have used Indian bay leaves here.

6. I got the fresh pandan leaves from Trikaya Organics. In case the fresh leaves are not available, dried ones or pandan essence can be used instead.

7. You can prepare the Urap Urap Sayur in the time when the Nasi Kuning is pressure-cooking. This way, both the rice and the salad are ready to be served together.

8. Several local vegetables and greens are typically used in the Urap Urap Sayur. I prefer using carrot, beans, capsicum and cabbage in the salad – I feel they go really well. You can use coloured cabbage too, to make the salad look prettier.

9. Dessicated coconut is also often used in Urap Urap Sayur, whenever freshly grated coconut is not available. However, I prefer using fresh grated coconut, as I think it elevates the taste of the salad by several notches.

10. Adjust the number of green chillies you use in the Urap Urap Sayur, as per personal taste preferences.

11. Some recipes call for the use of a shallot or two in the Urap Urap Sayur. This is ground together with the garlic, chillies and kaffir lime leaves. I prefer to skip the shallots.

12. Galangal can be used in place of the ginger I have used in the Urap Urap Sayur. However, I prefer the taste of Indian ginger in this dish, instead.

13. Do not overcook the vegetables in the Urap Urap Sayur. They should be cooked through, but not too mushy. They should retain a little crunch.

14. The above recipes for Nasi Kuning and Urap Urap Sayur are completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet. They are completely gluten-free as well.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Schezwan Dosa| Spring Dosa

Schezwan Dosa is a fusion of South Indian and Chinese cuisine, and I think it is a highly delicious one at that. A purist might balk at this popular street food, but I happen to love these dosas slathered with a fiery red chilli sauce, filled with gently stir-fried vegetables. It’s a nice change from the routine once in a while, come on!

Schezwan Dosa, aka Spring Dosa

What goes into my Schezwan Dosa

I use regular home-made dosa batter to make these, keeping it slightly thick so it holds the filling well.

There’s Schezwan sauce that goes in too, of course – a type of hot sauce made with red chillies that is widely used in Chinese cuisine. I try to make my own Schezwan sauce when I can, keeping it moderately spicy (will share the recipe shortly). When I can’t, I use Ching’s Schezwan Chutney, which tastes nice and is not smoke-from-the-ears-inducing spicy.

The Schezwan Dosa is also often called Spring Dosa because of the variety of vegetables that goes into it. I load the dosa with veggies, preferably in different colours, to make it look appealing to the resident food connoisseur aka my little daughter, the bub. For the bub, I make the dosa without the Schezwan sauce, with a generous dose of veggies inside, and it still tastes great. It’s a great way to get some veggies in, albeit slightly unhealthy!

How to make Schezwan Dosa

Here is how I go about it.

Ingredients (makes 10-12 dosas):

For the filling:

  1. 1/2 cup purple cabbage, chopped long and fine
  2. 1 medium-sized carrot, chopped into thin sticks
  3. 1/2 of a medium-sized yellow capsicum, chopped into long strips
  4. 1/2 of a medium-sized red capsicum, chopped into long strips
  5. 1/4 cup sweet corn kernels
  6. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 3/4 teaspoon black pepper powder or to taste
  9. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  10. 1 teaspoon soya sauce
  11. 1 teaspoon vinegar
  12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Other ingredients:

  1. 10-12 ladles of thick dosa batter, salted and fermented
  2. Oil, as needed, to cook the dosas
  3. Schezwan sauce, as needed, to spread inside the dosas

Method:

1. We will start by preparing the vegetable filling for the dosas. Chop the capsicum, carrot and cabbage as stated above. Keep them ready, along with the sweet corn kernels.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chopped capsicum, carrot and cabbage, along with the corn kernels.

3. Reduce the flame to medium. Stir fry on medium heat for a minute. Now, mix in the salt to taste.

4. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 more minutes or till the vegetables are done but still retain their crunch. They should not be overly cooked. Mix in the jaggery powder and black pepper powder.

5. Mix in the soya sauce.

6. Now, mix in the vinegar. Cook on medium flame for about a minute more or till the vegetables get dry. Switch off gas at this stage.

7. Lastly, mix in the finely chopped coriander. The vegetable filling is now ready. Allow it to cool down fully before using it in the Schezwan Dosas.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left and right: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 5, 6 and 7

8. When you are ready to make the dosas, get a thick dosa pan nice and hot. Pour a ladleful of the batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out to a large circle using the back of the ladle, and drizzle some oil all around it.

9. Turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium flame for 1-2 minutes or till the dosa gets cooked on the bottom and the spots of wet batter on the top disappear. Now, spread some of the Schezwan sauce all over the top of the dosa.

10. Keep a generous amount of the vegetable filling we prepared earlier, in the centre of the dosa.

11. Fold both sides of the dosa to make a sort of roll, as shown in the pictures.

12. Transfer the dosa to a serving plate. Cut into 2-4 pieces, as desired. Serve hot. Prepare Schezwan Dosa using all the batter, in a similar fashion.

Top left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Above leftmost bottom: Step 10, Leftmost bottom: Step 11, Bottom right: Step 12

Tips & Tricks

1. Chop all the veggies equally thick, so they cook evenly.

2. Lemon juice can be used in place of the vinegar, in the vegetable filling. I have used white vinegar here.

3. Adjust the quantity of pepper powder and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences. You can even skip the jaggery powder if you so prefer, but I would highly recommend using it.

4. Onions can be added in to the filling too. Here, I haven’t.

5. If you don’t have coloured cabbage and capsicum, you can use regular ones instead too.

6. The vegetable filling can be made in advance, while the dosas can be made just before serving.

7. Be careful while adding salt to the vegetable filling. Remember that the soya sauce we are using in the filling contains salt too.

8. Don’t overcook the filling. The veggies should retain their crunch.

9. The filling should be dry and not too wet, or it will make the dosa soggy.

10. You can use either store-bought or home-made Schezwan sauce in the dosa. Like I was saying earlier, I often make my own at home. If not, I use Ching’s Schezwan Chutney.

11. Keep the dosa batter slightly thick, for best results.

12. Make sure the dosa does not burn on the bottom, while you spread the sauce and filling over it.

13. The dosa batter we use at home is completely vegan and gluten-free. However, I can’t say the same about the vegetable filling because store-bought soya sauce goes into it – please read the ingredient list on your soya sauce to ensure it is entirely vegan and gluten-free. The same goes for Schezwan sauce, in case you are using a store-bought version.

14. Grated cheese can be used in the Schezwan Dosa too, along with the filling. I usually skip it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Rava Dosa| Semolina Dosa

Rava Dosa is one of our favourite breakfasts at home. Crispy and delicious, these dosas are a blissful treat, served straight off the pan.

There can never be too many kinds of dosa, at least for us! This one is my mom’s specialty – she makes it beautifully. Today, I’m here to share with you all the recipe for Rava Dosa, in mom’s style.

A closer look at Rava Dosa

Rava Dosa, as the name suggests, is made using rava, aka semolina or sooji. The fine variety – locally called ‘Bombay rava‘ – is used here. We also add in some rice flour for crispiness. Many rava dosa recipes use maida, but we use wheat flour instead.

Some slightly sour curd goes into the batter too, as well as a simple tempering of mustard and cumin. Finely chopped green chillies and curry leaves are added for flavour. All of these ingredients together make for a delicious, lacy rava dosa that is just the perfect level of crisp.

This rava dosa is an instant version, one that does not require any soaking or other prior preparation. Neither does the batter need any fermentation. These dosas can be put together in minutes, making them perfect for breakfast on busy days.

The batter here is kept rather watery and thin, and then poured onto a hot pan. The technique requires some practice, but it definitely isn’t very difficult to master – please don’t be disheartened in case you find it difficult in the first few tries.

How to make Rava Dosa, a la mommy

Now, let’s move on to the Rava Dosa recipe.
Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup fine rava
  2. 1/2 cup rice flour
  3. 1/8 cup wheat flour
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1/2 cup thick curd
  6. 1-1/2 cup water
  7. 1 green chilly
  8. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  9. 1/2 tablespoon oil + more as needed to make the dosas
  10. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  11. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

Method:

1. Take the rava, rice flour and wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Add in salt to taste.

2. Add in the curd. Mix well. Let the mixture soak while you get the other ingredients ready.

3. Chop the green chillies and curry leaves very finely. Add this to the mixture.

4. Heat the oil in a small pan. Add in the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Now, add in the cumin, and let it stay in for a couple of seconds. Add this tempering to the rava mixture.

5. Now, add the water little by little to the rava mixture, mixing well to ensure that there are no lumps. You should get a batter that is quite runny, similar to the Instant Ragi OnionDosa batter we prepared in an earlier post.

6. Place a dosa pan on high heat. Allow the pan to get nice and hot.

7. Now, reduce the flame to medium. Take a ladleful of the batter and pour it onto the hot pan. Take some more batter and, kind of, fill in the gaps on the pan, exactly like we did in case of the Instant Ragi Onion Dosa. Drizzle some oil all around. Let the dosa cook for 1-2 minutes or till it gets done at the bottom, then flip it over to the other side. Let it cook for about a minute on the other side too. Transfer to a serving plate when done. Serve the dosa hot with chutney or sambar of your choice.

8. Prepare Rava Dosa out of all the batter, in a similar fashion.

Tips & Tricks

1. Use fine rava aka Bombay rava, for best results. I have used raw, unroasted rava here.

2. Use slightly sour curd, for best results. The curd should be thick and not too watery. If you are using runny curd, you might want to reduce the amount of water you use in the batter.

3. Adjust the amount of green chillies you use, as per personal taste preferences.

4. A non-stick pan works best for me, for making these Rava Dosa. Mom makes them on a regular iron pan, but that’s a tall ask for me. Remember that the pan needs to be nice and hot before you start making the dosas.

5. Finely chopped onion can be added to the batter, as can some coriander.

6. These dosas use rava, which is made from wheat (Go to my post on Vegetable Rava Cheela for a detailed write-up on semolina). They also use wheat flour. Due to this reason, they are not gluten-free. They are not vegan either, because of the use of curd.

7. Like I was saying earlier, the technique of making these dosas might need a bit of practice to perfect. Please don’t be disheartened by that. It’s quite simple once you get the hang of it.

8. Be careful while flipping over the dosas. Once they are cooked on the bottom, gently loosen them with a spatula and flip over. This will help ensuring that the dosas do not break.

9. You may adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon your preference. You could start with a lesser quantity of water and then increase it, as you get the hang of making the dosas. However, please do remember that keeping the batter runny helps in getting nice and crispy dosas.

10. I have included videos from my Ragi Onion Dosa recipe here, because they are made in the same way as these dosas. I hope this will give you a better understanding of the consistency of the batter and the way in which the dosas need to be prepared.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Gujarati Dal Recipe| Demystifying The Gujarati Thali

Having a Gujarati thali is an experience in itself, one that I would highly recommend. The Gujarati cuisine is beautiful, if done right, and the dishes are a delicate balance between spicy, tangy, salty and sweet.

A simple, home-made Gujarati thali

However, for the uninitiated, the Gujarati thali experience can be a bit confusing and overwhelming. My post today is all about demystifying this experience, to help you understand it a little better so you can thoroughly enjoy and appreciate it, the next time. I’m also going to share with you all the recipe for Gujarati Dal, a simple dish that is a crucial component of the thali.

Demystifying the Gujarati thali

The word ‘thali‘ literally translates into ‘platter’. While every region of India has unique thalis of its own – a Gujarati thali is a platter that comprises of various dishes from the state of Gujarat. Here’s a simple Gujarati thali I made recently. I have labelled the various components, for easier understanding.

The components of my Gujarati thali

A typical Gujarati thali would include:

– A traditional beverage like Masala Chaas (spiced buttermilk) or Keri Panna (a spiced raw mango drink)

– Some kind of farsan i.e. a snack or appetiser like Dhokla (steamed snack made using rice and lentils) or Khaman (steamed snack made using besan or chana dal).

– Flatbreads, such as Bajra No Rotlo (pearl millet flatbread), Phulka Rotli (a puffed roti made using wheat flour), Jowar No Rotlo (sorghum flatbread) or Pooris (deep-fried, puffed wheat flour bread)

Bhaat aka rice, or a rice-based dish like Khichdi

Kachumber or salad

– Gujarati Dal, beautiful-tasting mildly spiced, mildly sweet lentils

– One or more vegetable dishes aka shaak. In the above thali, I have included Bateta Nu Shaak (potato curry) and Valor Nu Shaak (hyacinth beans curry), both cooked Gujarati-style.

Gujarati Kadhi, which is a tempered buttermilk dish

– Condiments like Athanu (pickle) or Chhundo (a sweet-sour relish made using raw mango)

– A dessert like Shrikhand (a sweet dish made using hung curd), Basundi (thickened and sweetened milk), Fada Lapsi (a sweet dish typically made using broken wheat), Gulab Jamun (khoya balls soaked in sugar syrup) or Kheer (a milk-based sweet dish).

It’s #TimeForThali at the Foodie Monday Blog Hop

This post is brought to you in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, a wonderful group of food bloggers that I am part of.

The enthusiastic members of the Foodie Monday Blog Hop share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. The theme this week is #TimeForThali, wherein the members are showcasing thalis from different parts of India. For the theme, I chose to write about the Gujarati thali.

It was Sasmita of First Timer Cook who suggested this lovely theme. Her blog is a treasure trove of traditional Odia recipes, interesting bakes and fusion dishes with unique twists to them. You guys should check out her recipe for Kalara Chadchadi, Odia-style bitter gourd in mustard paste. Doesn’t that sound absolutely rustic and fascinating?

Gujarati Dal recipe

Now, without further ado, let me share the recipe for the Gujarati Dal I have included in the platter above. This is the everyday sort of dal, which is prepared on a regular basis in Gujarati households, made using minimal ingredients, no fancy stuff included.

Gujarati Dal

Like I was saying earlier, Gujarati Dal is a simple but beautiful lentil dish, traditionally made using toor dal. The mildly spicy, lightly sour, and gently sweet taste of this dal is bewitching. It makes for a beautiful accompaniment to steamed rice and rotis alike.

Here’s how this Gujarati Dal is made.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 1/2 cup toor dal
  2. 1-1/2 tablespoons peanuts
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 2 green chillies
  5. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  6. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  7. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  8. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  9. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
  13. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  14. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

Method:

1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out all the water and transfer the dal to a wide vessel.

2. Add in enough water to cover the dal fully. Take the peanuts in a small cup, add in about a tablespoon of water, and place it inside the vessel too. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Cook for 6-7 whistles on high flame or till the dal is fully cooked and soft. Allow the pressure to release naturally.

3. In the meantime, peel the ginger and chop it very finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep the curry leaves, chopped coriander and lemon juice handy.

4. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, mash the cooked toor dal well. Keep it ready.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Above leftmost bottom: Step 3, Leftmost bottom and bottom right: Step 4

5. Now, we will start preparing the Gujarati Dal. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves, finely chopped ginger, slit green chillies and cooked peanuts. Saute for a few seconds.

6. Add the cooked toor dal to the pan, at this stage. Also add in about 3/4 cup water at this stage, or as needed to adjust consistency.

7. Add in the salt and turmeric powder. Mix well.

8. Add in the jaggery powder too. Mix well, and turn the flame down to medium.

9. Let the mixture cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till all the ingredients are well incorporated together. The mixture would have slightly thickened at this stage. Taste and adjust salt and jaggery at this stage. Switch off gas.

10. Mix in the lemon juice.

11. Mix in the finely chopped fresh coriander. Your Gujarati Dal is now ready. Serve it hot with steamed rice or rotis and sabzi, or as part of a full-fledged Gujarati thali meal.

Tips & Tricks

1. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the Dal you require. Gujarati Dal is usually not very thick. It is on the runnier side, but not overly watery.

2. Adjust the amount of green chillies, lemon juice, salt and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

3. Make sure the toor dal is well cooked before using it in the dish.

4. Other whole spices like cinnamon, cloves and cardamom can be added to the tempering too. I usually do that for special occasions only. I keep this everyday Gujarati Dal really simple.

5. Kokum (Garcinia Indica), tomatoes or tamarind extract can also be used to sour the Gujarati Dal. The tamarind isn’t a very traditional addition to the dal, but I have definitely seen it being used in the dish in Gujarati households. Kokum and tomatoes are more traditional souring agents in Gujarati Dal, as is lemon juice. I prefer using lemon juice.

6. The above Gujarati Dal recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It is a no-onion, no-garlic recipe as well. To make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Pavakkai Pitla| Parikkai Pitla

Pavakkai Pitla is a recipe of yore from Tamilnadu, a brilliant dish made using bitter gourd. It is a kind of sambar made using a freshly ground spice mix. With a hint of sweetness, the sourness and slight spiciness that is characteristic of sambar, this fragrant Pavakkai Pitla is a treat for sure. This delish confection is a wonderful way to consume the very nutritious bitter gourd – whether one likes the veggie or not, I’m sure this will win hearts. It’s a big favourite at home, making for a blissful meal with some rice and ghee or sesame oil (nalla ennai in Tamil).

Pavakkai Pitla, aka Parikkai Pitla

A closer look at Pavakkai Pitla

This dish is made using bitter gourd, like I was saying earlier, called ‘Parikkai‘ or ‘Pavakkai‘ in Tamil. It is made with a spice mix consisting of ingredients like coconut, dry red chillies and some lentils, which adds a wonderful flavour to the dish.

There’s tamarind in there, too, like in case of a regular sambar. The tamarind is slightly on the higher side in a Pavakkai Pitla, to even out the bitterness of the gourds. There is a bit of jaggery used in the Pitla too, for the same reason. In fact, there’s hardly any bitterness in the Pavakkai Pitla – if the bitterness of the gourds puts you off, this Pitla is something you must definitely try out.

As in a usual sambar, toor dal goes into this Pitla too. Traditionally, the Pitla is made using small brown chickpeas (aka kala chana), in the absence of which peanuts can be used too.I’m not sure why this is called Pitla, but that’s how it is referred to in Tamilian households. This is not to be confused with the Maharashtrian Pitla – that’s a completely different.

How to make Pavakkai Pitla

Here is how we go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  1. 4 small bitter gourds
  2. 1/2 cup toor dal
  3. 1/4 cup peanuts
  4. A big lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  5. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  9. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste

For the spice mix:

  1. 1/2 teaspoon oil
  2. 2 tablespoons chana dal
  3. 4-5 dry red chillies
  4. 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  5. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut

Method:

1. Wash the toor dal well under running water. Drain out the water.

2. Transfer the washed and drained toor dal to a wide vessel. Add in enough fresh water to cover the toor dal completely. Take the peanuts in a small cup and add in a tablespoon of water, placing it within the wide vessel. Place the vessel in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 7-8 whistles on high flame or till the toor dal is fully cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for 10-15 minutes, for it to soften. Let it cool down a bit.

4. Remove the tops and ends of the bitter gourd. Scrape out all the seeds. There is no need to peel the bitter gourd.

5. Now, chop the scraped bitter gourd into small pieces. Keep ready.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Above leftmost bottom: Step 3, Leftmost bottom: Step 4, Bottom right: Step 5

6. Put together the ingredients needed for the spice mix. We will now roast these ingredients.

7. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the chana dal, dry red chillies and coriander seeds. Turn the flame down to medium. Roast these ingredients on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till they start turning brown. Take care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn.

8. When the chana dal has slightly browned, add the coconut to the pan. Roast everything together on medium flame for a minute more.

9. Transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate. Allow them to cool down fully.

10. When the tamarind has cooled down completely, extract all the juice from it. Add fresh water little by little, to help with the process of extraction. I had about 1 cup of semi-thick tamarind extract. Keep it ready.

11. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, get the cooked toor dal out. Mash the toor dal well. Keep the cooked peanuts ready.

Top left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Centre left and right: Steps 8 and 9, Bottom left and right: Steps 10 and 11

12. When the ingredients we roasted for the spice mix have cooled down, transfer them to a small mixer jar. Grind to a smooth paste, using a little water.

13. Now, we will begin to make the Pavakkai Pitla. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in the same pan we used earlier. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida and curry leaves, and allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.

14. Add the chopped bitter gourd to the pan. Saute for a minute. Now, add in the turmeric powder and a little salt and water to the pan. Mix well. Cook covered on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the bitter gourd is cooked through.

15. Now, add the cooked peanuts and the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind is completely gone.

Top left and right: Step 12, Centre left: Step 13, Centre right and bottom left: Step 14, Bottom right: Step 15

16. Add the cooked toor dal to the pan, along with about 3/4 cup water to adjust consistency.

17. Also add in the spice paste we ground earlier. Mix well.18. Add in salt to taste and the jaggery powder. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes for the mixture to thicken and come together to a smooth consistency. You may add in more water if the consistency is too thick. That’s it – your Pavakkai Pitla is ready! Serve hot or warm with steamed rice.

Top left and below: Step 16, Top right and leftmost bottom: Step 17, Bottom right: The Pavakkai Pitla, simmering

Is this Pavakkai Pitla vegan and gluten-free?

This Pavakkai Pitla recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

If you want to make it gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, hence, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used 4 small bitter gourds here – not the baby ones, but the small variety as shown in the picture above. If you find only the larger variety, you can use 1 medium-sized bitter gourd instead.

2. I have used a mix of the spicy Salem Gundu and the milder Bydagi dry red chillies, in the spice mix. You can adjust the proportion of these chillies – and their quantity – depending upon how hot you want the Pavakkai Pitla to be.

3. Adjust the quantity of jaggery as per personal taste preferences.

4. Adjust the quantity of water you use, depending upon how thick you want the Pavakkai Pitla to be. Typically, it is slightly thicker than a regular sambar – quite runny but not watery.

5. If there are seeds and/or impurities in the tamarind, make sure they are removed before using the extract.

6. Sesame oil or coconut oil goes best in this Pavakkai Pitla.

7. Traditionally, small brown chickpeas aka kala chana are used in this Pavakkai Pitla, along with the bitter gourd. Soak 1/4 cup of these chickpeas for 8-10 hours or overnight, then pressure cook them in enough water till done, and add them in while adding the tamarind extract. Here, I have substituted the brown chickpeas with regular peanuts, as I had not soaked the former.

8. Pavakkai Pitla typically has a bit more tamarind and jaggery than the regular sambar, to even out the bitterness of the gourds.

9. Make sure the toor dal is well cooked, soft and mushy before using it in the Pavakkai Pitla.

10. Make sure the ingredients for the spice mix do not burn while roasting. This might alter the taste of the Pavakkai Pitla.

11. Don’t be intimated if the proceedure seems too long to you. It’s a fairly simple method. I have tried to write down the proceedure in elaborate detail so as to make the cooking easier for my readers and to get perfect results.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!