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Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Gravy

Sweet and Spicy Tamarind Gravy

  • Author: Radhika Penagonda's mother
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 1x


Many people either hate Bitter Gourd or do not know how to cook it to be palatable. This recipe is a sure opinion changer.


  • 4 medium sized bitter gourds / bitter melons
  • about one big lemon sized tamarind
  • 3 small cubes of jaggery (about 67 tbsp crushed)
  • 23 tsp Saaru podi
  • 11/2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • salt (about 3 tsp)

for seasoning:

  • 5 tbsp peanut or any neutral oil
  • 6 green chillies, sliced into thin rings (optionally, remove seeds to reduce heat)
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves, finely torn
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • a big pinch of hing / asafoetida


  1. Wash Bitter gourd, towel dry, slit into half and scoop out the seeds, trim the ends and chop finely. Discard the seeds or plant them.
  2. Soak tamarind in about 1-1/2 cups of warm water.
  3. Mean while, crush jaggery in a mortar and pestle to a coarse powder
  4. Dry roast black sesame seeds in a skillet or kadai on medium heat until they swell up and begin to splutter. Do not burn. When cooled, crush to a coarse powder in a mortar & pestle.
  5. Heat oil in a kadai or heavy bottomed pan on medium high heat. When oil is hot and shimmering, add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add chopped green chillies and torn curry leaves and sauté until chillies turn white, followed by adding hing and turmeric.
  6. Immediately, drop chopped bitter gourd into the pan and stir fry on medium high heat until wilted and light brown. Do not cover at any point.
  7. Squish the tamarind to a thick pulp. Strain the pulp and pour juices over over the bitter gourd quickly before the steam rises. Add a little more water to the remaining tamarind pulp if needed and repeat to adjust the consistency. Discard the pulp if completely used.
  8. Season with salt and Saaru podi, stir well and gently simmer uncovered until oil leaves the sides and the Gojju has thickened to a semi solid consistency (like chawanprash) about 15 – 20 mins.
  9. Sprinkle coarsely ground roasted black sesame seeds and crushed jaggery, stir to mix well and switch off once the jaggery melts.
  10. Taste and adjust salt and spices to suit your taste.
  11. Let it cool completely, without cover before storing away in an airtight glass jar. Tastes best the next day after the flavors settle.
  12. Savour it mixed with hot steaming rice and a drizzle of Ghee. Also goes well with Chapathi, Dosa and the like.


Black sesame seeds usually come with a lot of tiny stones. Pick before using. Saaru Podi can be substituted with homemade or store bought rasam powder or just red chilli powder if you have none of those at hand. Brown sugar may be used as a substitute for Jaggery, but cannot replace the taste of Jaggery. When made correctly, the result will be a perfect combination of sweet, salty, hot, sour and bitter without a single trace of bitterness overpowering. If after tasting the next day, if you feel the need for adjusting the taste, place it back in the kadai on heat, adjust seasonings and cook for a few mins on low to fix it. Stores well up to 3 days at room temperature and up to a week in the refrigerator, it never lasts that long in our house though. This recipe works equally well with Citron / Naarthangai / Heralekai, another classic bitter fruit.

  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Category: Side
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