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Bitter gourd and mango kootu (Pavakkai mangai kootu)

A kootu, also spelt as kutu, is a South Indian dish from Tamil Nadu and Kerala that is composed of a vegetable, lentils and coconut as its base. These dishes are complex from the combination of lentils and spices and resemble more of a stir-fry than a curry. The kootu is always vegetarian and can be made of any vegetable and lentil combination so the varieties of this dish are endless.

I am late in getting started with cooking with mangoes this year. Mango season is preceded by the appearance of green mangoes in the markets. They are met with joy and bought by everyone from chefs and housewives quickly as the season is fleeting. They are used in several ways, mango pickles, curries, stir-fries, juices and everything you can think of. The inventiveness of the Indian kitchens is amazing and I am in awe of the variety and flavours that these dishes have.

This is not a very traditional kootu as it does not have any lentils. The cooking technique is called "araichivita" wherein the coconut is ground and poured into the dish with spices. The word araichivita in Tamil translates to "the one which has been ground and poured." The style lends to a creamy dish that plays with two dominant flavours, sour and bitter. the flavours are in harmony, acting in balance on your palate.

Pure Vegetarian is a lovely cookbook filled with very traditional recipes from Tamil Nadu. The book is filled with popular dishes that are commonly found but cooked supremely, as well as, rarer recipes that are unique. this is a cookbook for those gourmets who are looking to step out of the ordinary in South Indian cuisine.

For more recipes from this cookbook, click here.


4 young bitter gourds, cut into 2-inch batons, you can remove the centre pith if desired

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup grated fresh coconut

2 cups water

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoons ginger paste

5 green chillies, or to taste, halved longitudinally

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 large green mango, peeled and cut into 2-inch slices

Salt, to taste

1 tablespoon jaggery

To temper:

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 dried red chillies

10-12 curry leaves

Add the bitter gourd pieces and salt to a pot with water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 35-40 minutes till the gourds are cooked through and soft. Drain and set aside.

Grind the coconut and water till the coconut is very smooth. Set aside.

While the gourds are cooking, add the oil to another pot and fry the ginger paste and green chillies till the ginger no longer smells raw, about 1 minute on a low flame. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and ground coriander seeds and toss quickly to mix. Add the man

Add the ground coconut paste and mix it well. Add the mango pieces and bring them up to a boil. Simmer for 2-3 minutes till the mangoes are just beginning to be cooked. Do not overcook, the mangoes will fall apart and the curry will turn to mush. Add the cooked bitter gourds and mix in well. take off the heat.

To serve, heat the curry and ladle it into a deep bowl. Heat the oil for temper and add the mustard seeds. Allow frying till they begin to pop and then add the dried chillies and curry leaves. Toss once and pour the mix over the curry. Serve immediately.

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