Another great recipe from the Queen of South Indian cuisine, my MIL. Pitlai. Its kind of a cross between sambar and kootu. So we're talking vegetables stewed in tamarind juice and a freshly ground spice mixture, with a bit of cooked toor dal added at the end. Sounds like sambar right? Pitlai does not have any fenugreek though, and the consistency is thick like kootu. I made it today, and all i can say is it tastes SO good. I am a fan of pitlai now. I'm pretty sure even Bee (who apparently hates sambar) would like this! You can make pitlai with any of the vegetables listed below. I happened to have eggplant, chayote squash, and okra, so that's what went into my pitlai. My MIL says she usually doesn't use okra as it can get mushy (I recommend frying it first), and she won't use vegetables like beans for ex. Also my MIL suggests using 1/2 the amount of tamarind juice for any vegetable other than eggplant.
Shankar just came home now and said the pitlai was good, BUT the classic combination for pitlai is more kuzhambu! Apparently one does not mix with rice and eat as I have described below, but has as a side dish to more kuzhambu with rice. And also, pitlai is supposed to be one vegetable only! I made it with three. But it was still good in my opinion, and Shankar said it tasted very good. The ultimate is supposedly eggplant pitlai with okra more kuzhambu. So, tomorrow I will make okra more kuzhambu and let's see how this combo tastes. Will post more pictures of that! Stay tuned....
2 cups of 3/4" cubed vegetables (green tomato, katharikai- eggplant, paharkai - bittergourd, pushnikai - white chinese melon, chou chou - chayote squash, parangikai - orange pumpkin), 1 tsp turmeric, 1 cup tamarind juice extracted from a 1" ball of tamarind, 1 tsp mustard seeds, a few curry leaves, 1/4 cup of cooked toor daal.
1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp channa daal, a pinch of asafetida, 4 dried red chillies, 1 tbsp dry grated coconut.
1. Roast the spice mixture and then grind it into a powder.
2. If you are using okra or bittergourd fry it in some oil on high heat.
3. Reduce the heat, add the other vegetables and barely cover with water. Boil for a few minutes with the turmeric.
4. Add the tamarind juice, and the spice mixture and continue boiling. Then bring to a simmer.
5. Add salt.
6. Add the toor daal and mix.
7. Splutter the mustard seeds in oil and add a few more curry leaves. Add to the mixture.
Serve with rice, appalam, and a tomato pachidi. Classically this is served with more kuzhambu.
1/2 tomato diced, a few fenugreek seeds, a pinch of asafetida, 1 tsp of mustard seeds, 1/2 small green chili minced, chopped cilantro for garnish, 1 cup yogurt
1. Splutter the mustard seeds, add the green chillies, and then add the fenugreek and asafetida.
3. Add this to the tomato and yogurt with salt and mix.
4. Garnish with cilantro.
Verdict: My husband is coming home from school for an hour break just to eat this!
I made vendakkai - okra more kuzhambu last night, and here is a picture of my lunchbox today. It was so tasty, I can see why it is the classic combination. But to be honest, I still liked the version with rice and thayir pachadi too!