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Pavakkai Pitlai / Bitter Gourd Black Eyed Peas Sambar

Pitlai is an authentic and traditional sambar variety prepared with veggies and legumes. For this I am using bitter gourd and black eyed peas.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course, rice accompaniment
Cuisine: South Indian, TamilNadu
Author: Srividhya G



  • Bitter Gourd - 5 small sized
  • Black Eyed beans - 1/4 cup
  • Tamarind paste - 1 tbsp
  • Water - for steaming bitter gourd + 2 cups for boiling dal and 1 cup for mixing tamarind
  • Toor dhal - 1/2 cup
  • Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - around 1 tbsp

To Roast and Grind

  • Dhaniya - 1/4 cup
  • Dried red chillies - 5
  • Kadala Paruppu / Channa Dal - 3tbsps
  • Methi seeds - 1 tsp
  • Urad Dal - 2 tsps
  • Grated Coconut - 1/4 cup

For Tempering

  • Oil - 2 tsps
  • Mustard seeds - 2 tsps
  • Methi seeds - 1 tsp
  • Hing - 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves & Cilantro for garnish


Prep work

  • If you are using dried beans soak them for 2 to 3hrs or overnight.
  • If your are using tamarind soak it water and extract the juice. If you are using the paste, mix it 1 cup of water and set aside.
  • Pressure cook the 1/2 cup of toor dal with 2 cups of water and 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder.
  • Let it cool down and mash it well.
  • Pressure cook beans for 2 whistles or you can microwave them.
  • Cut the bitter gourd into two halves and remove all the seeds and chop them.
  • Microwave them for about 5 minutes and make sure they are al-dente and not mushy.
  • Dry roast all the ingredients given under roast and grind and grind them by adding 1/2 cup of water and set aside.


  • Heat the kadai or the heavy bottom vessel and add oil.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds, methi seeds and hing.
  • As they start to splutter, add the microwaved bitter gourd and black eyed peas.
  • Now add the tamarind water, salt and mix well. Let it simmer.
  • As it starts to simmer, add the ground masala and and mix well.
  • Let it simmer again for couple of minutes and then add the mashed toor dal mixture.
  • Check for salt at this stage and if required add more.
  • Mix well and let it cook for 5 more minutes and turn of the heat. Pitlai is comparatively thicker than sambhar. So let it simmer till it thickens.
  • Finally add the cilantro and curry leaves.


  • Bitter gourd can be replaced with cluster beans or brinjal.
  • Similarly black eyed peas can be replaced with brown chick peas or garbanzo beans or beans of your choice.
  • My MIL adds 1 tsp of sambar powder and that gives it more darker color and also adds spice. You can adjust the spice level either by adding more red chillies or sambar powder.