Pavakai vatha kuzhambu / Bitter gourd tamarind stew

bittergourd tamarind stew.jpg

My mom makes the best vatha kuzhambu. It is a staple in our place. What is surprising is that she doesn’t eat it all, except as a side with curd rice. But the rest of us love it. One such recipe is orange peel vatha kuzhambu, which is quite a hit among my friends. Another favorite is this bitter gourd vatha kuzhambu. This is actually a good way to get kids/ bitter gourd hating members in the family to eat it. The sourness from the tamarind, sweetness from the jaggery, salt and the bitterness from the bitter gourd balance out really well and result in this beautiful dish! You can eat it with some hot rice and papad or as a side with curd rice.


  • 1 bitter gourd chopped
  • 1 lemon size tamarind, soaked in hot water
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 green chilly
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp sambar powder
  • 1/2 tsp urad dhal
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp jaggery
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste


Chop the bitter gourd and add some salt and turmeric powder to it. Mix well and set it aside for 15-20 minutes. The bitter gourd will leave some water. Rinse it off and set aside. This removes the bitterness from the bitter gourd.

Soak the tamarind in hot water and extract the juice from it. Add water to it so that you get about 3 cups of tamarind water.

In a pan, add the sesame oil and once it gets hot, temper it with mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chilly, urad dhal and let the mustard pop.

Then add the turmeric powder, asafoetida and roasted fenugreek powder.Saute for 5 to 10 seconds and add the chopped bitter gourd and sambar powder and saute for a minute.

Then add the tamarind water, salt and let it boil until the raw smell of the tamarind is gone.

Once it comes to a boil and the raw smell of the tamarind is gone, add the jaggery powder. Boil for one more minute and switch off the flame. Adjust salt as needed.

Add some curry leaves extra in the end. It gives a good smell to the dish. Serve it with rice and some ghee!


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