Pitlai (eggplants in tamarind coconut sauce)

Pitlai is a very typical Iyer dish. Though it uses ingredients used for sambar, pitlai consistency is somewhere between a sambar or a kootu and it is a good change from the usual menu of sambar, rasam or kozhambu. Pagakai pitlai (Bitter gourd pitali) is very famous recipe, since I don’t eat bitter gourd often( I will ISG, soon), I usually make pitlai out of eggplants. When I use eggplants, I can play with the consistency and can even make it thick and dry like a poriyal.

Ingredients: (Serves-2)

Purple-small eggplants- 8
Tamarind- one lime size ball
Salt- to taste
Turmeric Powder- 1/4 tsp
Cooked toor dal -1/2 cup
(or a combination of cooked toor dal and chana dal together-1/2 cup)

For tempering:
Oil- 1 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- few
Asafoetida- one pinch

To Grind:
Urad Dal- 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds- 2 tbsp
Chana dal- 2 tbsp
Dry red chilies- 4
Coconut- 3 tbsp


Wash and chop the eggplants in to cubes. Soak them in water with a pinch of salt for 10 minutes (to remove the seeds and the bitterness).

Add one cup of warm water to the tamarind and extract one cup of tamarind juice. You can also use 1/4 tsp of tamarind paste instead of using whole tamarind. Add another 1/2 cup of plain water and make the tamarind extract to 1.5 cups.

Toast the ingredients in the same order given under “to powder” section to a golden color. Let it cool and grind to a fine powder.

Heat oil in a pan and add oil and mustard seeds. When it splutters, add asafoetida, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Drain water from the eggplants and add it to the pan. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes, till it loses water. Add salt, turmeric powder and the tamarind juice. Cover and let it simmer for 5-7 minutes.

When the eggplants are almost half cooked, add the cooked dal to the pan, stir well to mix, and add the dry toasted powder, mix well again and cover and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

You can switch off the pitlai depending on the consistency you want, either a watery consistency like a sambar, thick like a kootu or even thicker like a poriyal. Serve hot with rice.

Pitlai is great on its own with a stir fried kari, or podimas or as a side dish for morekozhambu. Else you can use pitlai like a thugayal for rice.

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14 Comments to “Pitlai (eggplants in tamarind coconut sauce)”

  1. The Curry looks delicious dear (eggplant is one of my favourite). wud love to have some with rice:)

  2. simplyfood says:

    What a lovely recipe.I love egg plant.

  3. The Pitlai looks very very tempting!!.. its a new dish to me…. wow, pitlai is soo mouth-watering!

  4. Asha says:

    Love Pithlai, I think it’s Urad dal which gives it a unique taste than other gravies, looks good.

    Oh, there is a Vishnu Temple in Atlanta we went to visit twice, third time kids refuse to go! Another temple we went to is a Shiva temple in Memphis. We met a Kannada speaking Poojari there, I was so happy! 😀

  5. Cham says:

    I make pavakkai pitlai , brinjal should taste good Sow!

  6. usha says:

    Looks delicious ! One of my favorites…

  7. indosungod says:

    Love the sound of this dish but I’d try it with bitter gourd 😉

  8. Priya says:

    I used to make bittergourd pitlai, will give a try with brinjals..

  9. Sheetal says:

    Oooh .. a traditional Iyer preparation!! And with one of my favorite vegetables too!!
    P.S.: My idli plans have come to a stand-still. Have been super busy last couple of weeks :( I hope to get to your recipe, hopefully this week. Will e-mail you for sure 😀

  10. PJ says:

    Pitlai looks so delicious! I am definitely going to try this one!

  11. Thats a nice recipe to try, looks very delicious…

  12. Joanne says:

    Mmmm I love the idea of eggplants combined with coconut! Great combo.

  13. sayantani says:

    Give me anything with eggplant and I will devour it with great satisfaction. love the name as well…

  14. Jagruti says:

    lovely brinjal curry…my faviorte and with tamrind ohhhhhhhh…..

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