Count down to Due date of my Second Blessing

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Saga of the Pavakkai Poriyal (Bitter Gourd Stir fry)

Pavakkai Poriyal - glistening with green goodness.

There is a long story behind my relationship with this vegetable, for those who don't want to read the story please scroll down for the recipe.

Pavakkai or Bitter Gourd is one veggie which I hate. When I was in school, my mother used to make it at home because it was good for health espescially diabetic patients (my grand parents were diabetic). she used to try to make me eat it saying it good for diabetes. My standard reply was if and when I get diabetes I will suffer at that time, no need for me to suffer in the expectation of suffering. Well cheeky me.
Then I got married to a man who loves bitter gourd. Hmm.. He is MSc chemistry. I should have suspected something when he chose chemistry as his major. Well opposites attract and all that stuff. When I was newly married and so in thrall with his charm, I tried to cook bitter gourd for him. phew! I felt the whole house smelled of bitterness. I put my foot down. Choose either me or pavakkai. Of course since my hubby also likes sweets he chose me. OK OK I made that up. He grumbled once in a while about how good pavakkai is for health and how a "proper" cook will know how to cook it properly.
I took it in this ear and out through the other ear and consoled him with my Biriyanis etc..
After my daughter started school, I joined a job. There was this lady who inspired awe in me. Her name was Madam Mercy. Till date I dont know her last name though I have met her Husband and two children more times than I can count. She is a malayalee. She was super efficient and we could set the clock in our office based on her punctuality. Her house was neatly maintained. She had prayer meetings in her home where she prepared food herself for the attendees. Well you get the idea. If there is a super mom contest, my vote would have been for her. And her lunch box! Always freshly made food with a variety of dishes. Mine was normally thayir sadam and a side dish. She used to share her box generously also. If she knew that I liked some thing, next time, she bought extra for me.
Once I told her that my DH likes bitter gourd and I was a dismal failure at cooking it. She gave me her recipe for pavakkai stir fry and gave me some tips also. She also bought 1/2 kg of pavakkai poriyal on the day we had half day. I took that box home, kept it on the dining table telling my Husband that this pavakkai poriyal by Mercy madam is for you. I went to wash up and when I came back my Husband had polished it off. It must have been atleast two cups. I was stunned!
He only looked at me and told " You told it is for me only no?"
Well If you readers think that finally I started cooking pavakkai for my Hubby, you are wrong. I didn't. Atleast not for another five years atleast.
Now my Hubby's tune changed to " You remember Mercy madam's pavakkai poriyal, why don't you make it like that for me?" Heartless me. Again I consoled him with other dishes and told myself I dont have mercy madams magic with pavakkai.
From the above story you can seee how patient my Hubby is with me.
After coming to Saudi, around four months back, he had gone to the vegetable market. he came back and kept (rather Plonked) the veggies on the counter and said " I have bought pavakkai. Cook it for me. I don't care how, but I want it for tommorrow's Lunch." (Don't you just love macho men) I stared at the green ridges looking like a miniature crocodile on the counter. The pair stared back at me ( I felt like that).
Luckily I have an aptitude for remembering things for a long time and Mercy madams instructions were clear in my head. I thought what the hell. after all two pavakkais. what can they do to me. I followed her instructions as far as feasible. Wonder of wonders. No bitter smell. I even had a few spoonfulls mixed with my sambhar rice. Even I could eat it and my husband gave his stamp of approval whole heartedly.
It took me nearly fifteen years of married life to cook pavakkai to the satisifaction of my DH.

Readers, the moral of the story is try out something atleast once before you decide you are not good at it.

Recipe for Pavakkai Poriyal.
Pavakkai - 2 nos around 20 cm length and 7 cm diameter
Big Onion - 1 nos,
Curry leaves 2 sprigs
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
salt - to taste
Dessicated coconut - 2 - 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
udad dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tst
Oil - 3 tbsp.


Note: Please follow the processing steps just as I have noted here. Mercy madams instructions were to slice the bitter gourds at the last min possible and immediately cook them.

Chop onions finely. Wash bitter gourd, slit into two, remove the seeds with a spoon and wash again and keep aside.Heat oil in a kadai, add mustard, udad dal, asafoetida two shakes or a pinch, curry leaves and chopped onions and salt in that order. Lower the flame and while the onions turn translucent, quickly slice the cleaned bitter gourd. It will take hardly two mins. Dump the cut pavakkai in the kadai, add turmeric powder and turn the heat to medium high. stir for around five mins. Add chilli powder and stir for around two mins, then check the pavakkai for done ness. It should be cooked by now, dosent take long. Stir a little longer if necessary. Add the dessicated coconut and stir till you get a nice aroma of toasted coconut.  Check for salt. Serve hot as an accompaniment with rice.

Yes Simple and easy actually. And very tasty according to my husband. When my father and mother come to help for my second delivery, I have to try it out on my Father.

As per Mercy madams instructions, I was supposed to add coconut pieces cut into chip size like corn kernels to the oil before adding onions and fry till golden. This imparts a lovely flavour to the dish but I dont buy whole coconut here. I buy either dessicated or frozen grated coconut. The dessicated coconut flakes added a nice toasted coconut aroma to the dish.

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