Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pavakka Thoran/ Bittergourd Stir-fry with Coconut ..mingled with memories!..


Thomas B. Sebastian, the ‘Prefect’ of Class IV was undoubtedly the outstanding student of our class, appointed specially by the class teacher Ms. Alexander(one of my holy terrors ;) of those days..).

Tom excelled in everything he did.
Be it studies, music, sports…the ‘Class Prefect’ saw to it that the class was ‘Perfect’ in every way!. Even the lunch break was not spared.He would inspect every single classmate making sure he or she was not taking back home, the ‘left overs’ in their respective lunch boxes.

Well, as a child(as any normal kid, I swear:)) I pushed away this pale green vegetable whenever on the table, in whatever avatar it would appear that had always topped the personal “Ever Hate List” :)!..
My ‘clever’(rather humiliating here ;))Mom, very much aware of the above ‘lunch time supervision’, would sneak in this bitter tasting veggie in my lunch box, mostly in thoran form, claiming the added coconut would bring down its bitterness, nutrients well preserved and preferably a healthier version to the fries..
Come lunch break, Tom(whose seat was unfortunately right beside mine) would monitor till I finished the last speck, leaving me depressingly helpless ;)!!..
The dislike towards this veg faded away over the years and now on the contrary I am specific to include the same dish in my weekend lunch….the same way my mom prepares,(no more sneaking in my children's tuck boxes, as they are smarter than me, inspecting thoroughly the packed lunch or at least they never had an efficient prefect like my good ol’ pal Tom!).

The sweet memories linger whenever I cook this bitter vegetable.. :)...

*Pavakka/Karela/Bittergourd- cut finely-a cup
Thick tamarind pulp-a tsp
Salt-to taste

Pulse to a coarse mixture(should be crumbly and dry);

Grated coconut-1/2 cup
Shallots -2
Garlic pod-1-2
Red chillies-1-2 or ½ tsp chilly powder(according to your spice level)
Turmeric powder-1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds/powder-1/4 tsp
Water-a tbsp

To season;

Coconut Oil-a tbsp(or any oil you use)
Mustard seeds-1/4 tsp
Shallots- cut finely –a tbsp

Urad dal-1/4 tsp
Curry leaves-a sprig

*Let the bitter gourd be fleshy and pale green/yellow coloured.The darker the hue, more bitter the taste.

1. Transfer the cut vegetable into a shallow pan of boiling salted water just enough to immerse the pieces.Let it simmer for not more than a couple of minutes or until ‘just’ cooked.Drain away the water.(this is to reduce the bitterness of the veg.You can avoid this step and directly proceed with the raw pieces of the veg, too).

2. Heat oil in a pan, splutter mustard seeds, brown the urad dal, fry the shallots till brown and throw in the curry leaves.

3. Add the coarsely ground mixture.Keep the flame low.Sauté continuously so as to get rid of the raw smell taking care not to let it stick to the bottom.

4. Add the precooked veg(if you'd skipped the precooking part,add 2 tbsps of water along with the veg and cook till half done, keeping the pan closed).
Sprinkle water if too dry.Mix well.Add the tamarind pulp and salt.Keep the pan closed and let it cook for 10-15 minutes, in minimum flame.

5. Remove from fire when the spices coat all over and the dry consistency is reached. Check salt.
Serve hot with boiled rice and curry.


Thomas, the state rank holder of our school in the public exams and later in college university, completed his education in Bits Pilani, is currently based in the US with his lovely family.
I’d not met him ever since we left
college but fortunately he had come down to our home town for a short holiday, 2 months ago.
I was lucky enough to be there in town at that time, co-ordinating the college meet and desperately tried to bring him down for our reunion function.
The efforts failed.
On the day of the get together, amidst all the cheer that was going on around me, we rambled on the phone for a while; the reminisces of our childhood days, after almost Two Decades!!.. :)


  1. I still dislike this vegetable quite passionately :D

  2. Loved Reading ur Prologue..
    This recipe call's for much of coconut!!

  3. Even I don't like bittergourd..But it looks good :)

  4. ayoo enikku ishtamillatha oru vasthu:)
    but the pic looks nice.
    btw,prologue was interesting to read.

  5. Pavakka enikkum ishtamillatha vegge annu:)
    A very well written post Bharathy!!!:)

  6. I too am not pavakka lover,but happy to see you around:) :) :)

  7. I don't hate or love bittergourd, it's sv's favorite. Dish looks great, I should try with coconut next time. Good to see u back.

  8. well this is good version for the bittergourd
    will have to try it

  9. oppsssss pavakka!! ahem i hate it but ur for sure looks yum..

  10. LOL Bharathy! hilarious post. thankfully i had this friend who was always hungry and loved eating littel extra from other's lunch box ;)

  11. i have a q?
    what kind of watermark r u using
    i am looking for some good options

  12. I love Pavakka a lot.One of my favorite vegetable. I will definitely try this. Looks so yummy. Thanks Bharathy

  13. Bharathy,lovely thoran! My 4 yr old likes b.gourd though I started eating(read-accepting)only a decade ago :D Loved reading abt ur IV std recess adventure n also Nags comment! :) (Hey got to say that ur comment on mine cracked me up!:D)

  14. High time you started eating this, sis :)!

    Yes Lavi, kerala dishes are supposed to be likewise and here a li'l bit extra to bring down the bitterness :)..

    Thanks to you Madhu and Praju :)

    Thankyou Swapna :)!
    ..and you too Raji..blogging gets all the more interesting with friends like you, girls :)!

    Thankyou Shiva,MR and Divz :)!

    LOL Sia..I always am amazed to see gals like you being quick witted even with the comment boxes :)!!

    MR, I have answered in your lovely blog :)!

    Welcome to my place Susan!!.. and thanx for your lovely comment ';)

    Purnima,Can't belive a 4yr old eating this lovely veggie..Spl hugs to your boy!;)..
    Abt my comment in your place..I really did mean it..Good work has to be appreciated right?? :)
    Glad that you liked the MW choc cake..
    Just now only I came to know that you know swapna personally :)!..

  15. thanks bharathy
    for ur time and ur valueble insight

  16. Here is a delicious way of making this bitter veggie! Nice story!

  17. Nice to see you back at blogging. And with something I like. Yes, I do like this vegetable.:)

    Your poor friend.:( At least he got you to finish your lunch.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. Looks yummy hope it tastes the same way too....Will surely give a try!
    Nice organised blog u have!

  20. I love Pavakka' do my hubby..Nice thoran..:)

  21. Wow...that looks delicious...never made pavakka thoran before, its always fried at my place...will try this soon.

  22. Hey nice to c u back after longggggg....adipoli ayirinno?..ur bittergourd fry looks tempting..just need a bowl of curd rice to have it..

  23. oruu kocchu treat unddeee..plzz accept cheyuuu..

  24. oruu kocchu treat unddeee..plzz accept cheyuuu..

  25. bharathy...i am with ur sis on this one....i am the only one in my family tho...even my nephews eat it...but i act like a total baby...pretending to gag and crap ;)

  26. Pavakkai thoran looks yum and inviting !

  27. I got something new here.Thanks for sharing.

    Lingerie Alley

  28. Hi,
    Thank you for this simple and interesting recipe, prepared this for lunch yesterday and we both loved it.My husband said, it has that typical kerala taste, now that's an appreciation!
    visited here first time from Edible garden, and found your descriptions very interesting.
    I loved the blog on Pongal and your place. Wonderful !

  29. thanks for the recipe , i love pavakka thoran...i also make another tangy version of pavakka thoran at

    keep posting more recipes!:)


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