It is a myth that bitter gourds (Balsam pear) are always bitter. Bitter gourds are similar to onions: they both have strong flavors when eaten raw and lose their flavors when cooked. Thus bitter gourds taste bitter when taken raw, when cooked its bitterness reduced by half, when deep fried they are slightly bitter, and when fried in low temperature for a long time bitterness can be eliminated.
So we can very well eliminate the bitterness to a large extent by adopting various cooking practices, and let us encourage our family especially the kids to include Balsam pear in their diets considering the health benefits listed below.
Ayurvedic properties of bitter gourd:
- Taste (Rasa): Bitter (tikta)
- Qualities (Guna): Light to digest (laghu)
- Potency (Veerya): Hot (ushna), so it is better to avoid during summer.
- Action (Karma): Destroys the effects of kapha & pitta dosha (kapha pitta hara).
- Benefits: Reduced blood sugar (prameha), treat anorexia with improved appetite (arochaka), improved digestion (deepana), treat worm infestation (krumihara), treat chronic respiratory disorders (shwasa), treat bleeding disorders (raktapitta).
Pagarkai poriyal tastes delicious with paruppu sadam & also with thayir sadam and it goes well with sambar, rasam, or any kuzhambu.
Here I have used small varieties of bitter gourd (mithi pagal). I have steamed them before stir frying to reduce the frying time and also to eliminate the bitterness as much as possible. As I stir fried them along with pungent shallots and sweet coconut one can barely notice their bitter flavor. Nevertheless I have not tried to mask their flavors with other strong flavors of tamarind (sour), jaggery (sweet), or chilli powder (spicy). Now lets see how we can prepare delicious pavakkai poriyal :
Time taken: 30 min.
Yields: 1 cup (200 ml)
- Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
- Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
- Blackgram (split) – ½ tsp
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Shallots (sambar vengayam) – 20 Nos.
- Coconut strips – 5 Nos. (each 2″)
- Bitter gourd (pagarkai) – 300 grams
- Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
- Salt – ¾ tsp
- Slice bitter gourds lengthwise after trimming the ends & removing hard seeds as shown below.
- Steam bitter gourd slices for 5 min. or until soft.
- Meanwhile peel shallots and slice them lengthwise.
- Slice coconut strips into thin teeth.
- Heat a pan with oil in medium flame and add mustard seeds into the pan.
- When they begin to crackle add black gram and fry until golden.
- Add sliced shallots, coconut teeth and curry leaves.
- Saute until shallots turn translucent.
- Add red chilli powder into the pan and fry for few seconds.
- Add steamed bitter gourd followed by salt.
- Saute until the volume is almost reduced to half for about 5 min.
- Now stir fried bitter gourd is ready to serve.