Pitlai is a Veggie and lentil stew that is flavored with the aromatic coconut gravy and tempered with coconut oil. This can be meal in itself.
Pitlai ( I believe) Tamilnadu/Palakad delicacy. Filled with flavors of coconut, veggies and some kind of lentil its a hearty dish. The most popular, widely made and relished pitlai is pagakai (bitter-gourd) pitlai but there are few other varieties that are also made, like vazhapoo piltlai and palakai pitlai.
My favorites are Vazhapoo and Palakai variety of pitlais and it just tastes awesome with hot rice or Adai. Its another must make dishes when my mom is in town.
Today felt lazy and I was unsure what to whip up for lunch. As usual I was deep in though with my fridge open staring at my veggies. The Chinese Eggplant was calling me to make pitlai but since the small Indian variety is the default in the recipe and I kept ignoring it. But in the end I gave in and I decided to use that for my pitlai.
The reason I was reluctant was because the Chinese Eggplant has more water content than the small Indian variety. But cooking in my kachiti and the coconut oil always make up for alteration from the it customary so I went ahead.
As usual, I try and understand the difference between dishes when they are similar or some similarities, so here is my take on few main difference between Pitlai and Sambar:
- Most veggies can be used ( popular veggies are: drumstick, carrot, potato, brinjal, Onion, pumpkin(white and yellow, flat beans and different turnip to name a few)
- Veggies are usually cut into bigger chunks.
- One of the main ingredient is toor dal so it is used in more quantity
- No urad dal is added to the masala.
- Lesser quantity of Coconut is added and more dhaniya is added for flavor
- Usually does not use any dried beans.
- More tamarind can be used as it is usually tangy.
- Onion/tomato can be added for making the masala
- Specific veggies can be used ( popular veggies are: Brinjal, Bitter gaurd, Vazhapoo, Palakai, Avarakai and Vazhakai to name a few )
- Veggies are usually chopped.
- Toor dal is almost half of sambar as the ground paste thickens the gravy.
- Urad dal is used in the masala. Urad dal makes the gravy more think and gives a bit slimy texture.
- Pitlai has elivated coconut flavor so more coconut is added as
- Less tamarid can be used as it is usually not too tangy.
- Veggies usually combined with Garbanzo, peanuts or Blackeye peas
- No Onion/tomato are added
Now to the recipe
Kathirikai Pitlai | Brinjal Bean stew
Brinjal /Kathirikai – 1 cup cut
Black eye Beans/Goat pea – 1/2 cup
Tamarind paste- 1 tbs
Toor Dal / Split gram dal – 1/4 cup
Coconut Oil for tempering
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Turmeric -1/2 tsp
Hing/Perungayam/Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
To grind for basic pitlai gravy
1 Tbs – Channa dal
1/2 Tbp – Urad dal
2 tbs – Dhaniya seeds
2-3 – Red chilies
2 – Kashmiri red chilies
1/4th cup – Grated coconut
10 – Pepper corns
Dry roast all the above ingredients and grind it into a smooth paste.
- In a heavy bottomed pan add the cut eggplant and add the turmeric and salt. Cook it until it is soft.
- While the eggplant is cooking, pressure cook the toor dal and soaked black eye beans for up to 2-3 whistles in the cooker or for about 10 mins in InstaPot.
- Dry roast the masala ingredients and grind the roasted masala into a smooth paste.
- Once the eggplant is cooked, add the masala paste and the tamarind paste to it. Let this simmer for few mins.
- Let the veggie pieces cook well with the masalas. Add water if the mixture is too thick. Make sure to keep stiring the mix as it may start to stick at the bottom.
- Once the mixture come to a boil add in the cooked and mashed dal. Add more salt to taste at this point .
- Let the it all cook well together for another 5 to 7 mins in medium flame.
- Once done. Temper with musturd seeds, hing and curry leaves in coconut oil to Pitlai.
Serve hot with rice, it is also pairs very well with rotis. If you have not tried it you should.