Pavakkai Simple Poriyal (Simple Bitter Gourd Fry)

Bitter gourd is a vegetable which, in spite of its bitterness, is cooked in different ways and served almost every week in Tamil Nadu because it is widely believed that it lowers the blood sugar level. I do not consider this to be true because I’ve always found holes in research which claimed this effect. My mother used to make this very simple preparation but not very often because of the labour involved in removing the seeds from the small bitter gourd, which was the only variety available then. Now that the larger variety is available throughout the year, it has become much quicker to make this poriyal.

Pavakkai Simple Poriyal - Kalas Kalai

Pavakkai Simple Poriyal

My mother used regular sliced onions, but I prefer to use whole sambar vengayam (small onion) because it gives a crisper texture and better flavour and appearance.

Nutritive Value

The nutrient contribution of bitter gourd to a meal is of very little significance. It is the added oil which supplies a small amount of energy. Bitter gourd has very small amounts of beta carotene and vitamin C.


  • ½ kg Pavakkai (Bitter Gourd)
  • ½ C Sambar Vengayam (Small Onion), peeled, whole
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
  • 4-5 Dry Red Chillies
  • ¼ tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 3 T Gingelly (Sesame) Oil
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt, or to taste


  1. Quarter the bitter gourd, remove seeds, and slice if you’re using large bitter gourd.
  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick kadai or wok.
  3. Add the mustard seeds and wait till they crackle.
  4. Add the bitter gourd and the red chillies. Stir.
  5. Cook on low heat till almost tender.
  6. Add the onion and salt. Stir. Cover the vessel and continue to cook.
  7. When the onions are tender, add the curry leaves, stir and remove from heat.


  1. If you’re using large bitter gourd, you can soak them in salted water for 15 minutes to reduce bitterness.
  2. The amount of sambar vengayam can be increased to counter the bitter taste of the vegetable.
  3. Do not remove the stems of the red chillies. If you do the seeds will escape and make the dish much hotter.

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