The health benefits of bitter gourd (‘pavakkai‘ in Tamil) are quite well known. They are rich in dietary fibre and Vitamin K, and low in calories. They are great for keeping one’s weight and blood sugar levels in control. Indian cuisine has a wide range of dishes that use bitter gourd, some really innovative. However, a whole lot of people shun this vegetable, thanks to its bitter taste. I used to be one of those people too, till I discovered the real beauty of the bitter gourd and made it a regular feature in my kitchen.
The last weekend, on a short holiday in Madras, I came across these lovely baby bitter gourds (‘midhi pavakkai‘ in Tamil) at a vegetable vendor’s. They looked so cute, lying there in their basket, that I absolutely had to get some back home with me to Bangalore. 😉 This delicious, delicious Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry aka Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal is what happened to them.
Baby bitter gourds are less bitter as compared to their regular, longer counterparts, and tastier too. Or at least I think so. 🙂 De-seeding them to make this poriyal was a bit of an uphill task, but I would say the end result was totally worth it. I served the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal with hot rice and sambar, and the combination was nothing short of divine.
Here’s how I made the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal aka Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
- 250 grams midhi pavakkai aka baby bitter gourds
- 1 large onion
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 3-4 dry red chillies
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- Red chilli powder to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons powdered jaggery, or to taste
- Wash the baby bitter gourds well under running water. Drain out all the water, and pat dry using a cotton cloth.
- Chop off any long tails that the baby bitter gourds might have, and then chop each one into half. Use a knife or your fingertips to scoop out the seeds from the bitter gourds. This will help in cutting down the bitterness of the vegetable to a large extent. Keep the prepared bitter gourds aside.
- Finely chop the onion, and keep aside.
- Heat a pan, and add in the oil. Add in the mustard seeds and allow them to pop. Now, add in the cumin seeds, dry red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida. Let these ingredients stay in for a couple of minutes.
- Add the finely chopped onion to the pan. Turn the flame to medium, and add a little salt. Cook the onions on medium flame till they begin to brown, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking.
- Now, add the prepared baby bitter gourds to the pan. Add salt to taste, and continue cooking on medium flame till the bitter gourds start shrivelling. This should take 2-3 minutes.
- Add red chilli powder to taste, jaggery powder and turmeric powder. Mix well. Continue cooking the curry on medium flame till the bitter gourds are completely done. Keep stirring intermittently. Switch off gas when the bitter gourds are fully cooked, and the curry acquires the blackish hue of caramelisation. This should take 3-4 minutes.
- Serve the Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry hot or at room temperature. It goes really well with piping hot rice, ghee, and rasam/sambar.
- For best results, choose tender baby bitter gourds that are fresh and firm, and not the yellowing, mature ones.
- There is no need to peel the baby bitter gourds. Remove all mature seeds from the bitter gourds. If the bitter gourds are too tiny or fresh and the seeds aren’t very mature, they can be left in.
- If you are not able to get hold of baby bitter gourds, the ordinary long ones can be used instead. Remove the seeds from them the same way, chop finely, and proceed to make the poriyal as in the recipe above.
- Once halved and de-seeded, the baby bitter gourds can be mixed with a little salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes. This will make the bitter gourds water. You need to squeeze out the water and use the bitter gourd pieces in making the poriyal, as per the proceedure outlined above. This step helps to cut down the bitterness of the gourds quite a bit, but I skipped this.
- Gingelly oil works best in this recipe. However, if you don’t have it, any other type of oil can be used instead.
- Sugar can be used in place of jaggery powder here. Adjust the quantity of sugar/jaggery powder you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
- Finely chopped coriander leaves can be used to garnish the Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal, once it is ready. Here, I haven’t.
- You may use more oil to make this Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal, if you so wish. I have used 2 tablespoons only.
- It is important to cook this Baby Bitter Gourd Stir Fry on medium heat, uncovered. Stirring intermittently is critical too, to ensure that the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Also, remember not to sprinkle any water while preparing the curry. This is what will give the curry a beautiful colour and taste.
- You may add a spoonful of thick tamarind paste or lemon juice while making this Midhi Pavakkai Poriyal. This adds taste to the curry, and also helps in cutting down on the bitterness of the pavakkai. I haven’t used any tamarind/lemon juice here, though.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!