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pavakka puli kulambu

Pavakka Puli Kulambu | Pavakkai Puli Kulambu

Course Lunch
Cuisine South Indian, Tamil Cuisine
Keyword Bitter Gourd, vegetables
Author Niveditha


  • Saucepan / Kadai
  • Blender


For the paste:

  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 cup Pearl Onions / Shallots , 120g
  • 1/2 cup Grated Coconut , loosely packed, 60g

For the kulambu:

  • 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
  • 4 cloves Garlic , peeled and minced
  • 8-10 medium Shallots/ Pearl Onions , peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups Bitter Gourd , washed, seeds removed and chopped, (275g or a medium bitter gourd)
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1 tbsp Sambar Powder , adjust based on the spiciness of the sambar powder you use
  • 1 tsp Rock Salt , adjust to taste
  • 1/8 tsp Asafoetida Powder
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Tamarind Extract , (see notes)


Making the paste:

  • In a saucepan, add the sesame oil and add the shallots to the pan once the oil is hot. Sauté it on medium flame until it begins to brown on the edges. Transfer the shallots to mixer grinder/blender.
  • Once the shallots have cooled down, add the coconut to the blender and pulse a few times. Scrape the sides and blend to a smooth paste using few tablespoons of water if required. Set it aside.

Making the curry:

  • In the same saucepan (washing not required), add the coconut oil and let it get hot. Add the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves to it. Wait until the fenugreek seeds turn golden brown and the mustard seeds have spluttered.
  • Add the chopped garlic and chopped shallots and sauté until the shallots turn translucent. Next add the chopped bitter gourd an sauté for 10 minutes or so in medium flame or until it begins to brown around the edges. Keep stirring to avoid scorching of the bitter gourd.
  • Once that is done, add the turmeric powder, asafoetida powder, sambar powder and salt. Give a quick mix and then add the ground onion-coconut paste. Mix it all thoroughly.
  • Add the water and mix it again. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let it simmer on medium flame for 10 minutes. Then check if the bitter gourd is cooked.
  • Once it is cooked, add the tamarind extract and let the kulambu simmer for another 10 minutes on low flame for all the flavors to sink in.
  • Turn off the heat and serve it over cooked rice!


  • 1 cup = 235 g size.
  • The taste of tamarind varies as it ages. I have used aged tamarind the size of lemon soaked in 1 cup of water and strained.
  • If you don't have shredded or grated coconut, you can use coconut pieces of the same weight.
  • I use homemade Sambar Powder. You can use whichever powder you usually use.
  • This curry pairs well with cooked rice, cooked millets, idlis, and dosas!
  • This pavakka puli kulambu stays good in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Store it in an airtight container.
  • Sauteed and ground shallots plus tamaring gives a good amount of sweetness to this curry. But if your tamarind is not sweet only sour, add 1-1.5 tsp powdered jaggery for sweetness if preferred.