Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ma er Tetor Dal ~ Dal with Bitter Gourd

…or My Mother's Bitter Dal is a Dal or Lentil Soup with veggies like Lauki or Bottle Gourd and Karela or Bitter Gourd. This is also an entry for this week’s WHB from both me & my Mother.

I wanted to highlight the vegetable Karela or Bitter Gourd for this week’s WHB hosted by Anna of Anna's Cool Find. Karela or Korolla as we say in Bengali and its smaller cousin Uchche, which I can rarely find in the stores here, is a very popular vegetable in Bengali cuisine. As I said earlier (in Shukto post) the first course of a Bengali meal is usually bitter to cleanse the taste buds. The Bitter Gourd serves this purpose delightfully and so is much loved in Bengali households. Uchche Bhaja - Thinly sliced Bitter Gourd and then fried, Uchche Begun – Bitter Gourd and Eggplant chopped in small pieces and then sauted, Uchche-Alu Seddho – Bitter Gourd and Potatoes simply boiled and mashed with little mustard oil and salt are almost every day part of a typical Bengali cuisine. And Bengali cuisine doesn't want to get rid of the bitterness of Bitter Gourd, no way, they need that bitterness in full volume.
Me who did not love this bitter tasting veggie much had a hard time growing up as any one can imagine. Even now while D chomps on boiled Karela gleefully I swallow it down with water and sugar!! I guess it's an acquired taste and not everyone can appreciate the bitterness. However as I grow older or old as is the case, I appreciate this veggie more and try to incorporate it in some form in my diet.

Since my Ma is here, over the weekend I tried out this Dal with her narrating the steps and also judging each of my steps. Bitterness is mellowed down in this Dal and though it is called Tetor Dal or Bitter Dal, bitterness is just a mellowed fleeting taste intermingling with the subtle sweetness of the lauki or bottle gourd and the taste of the yellow Moong Dal itself. The "T" in Tetor is pronounced as "T" in Tai-chi with the tip of your tongue touching the base of your teeth

This Dal is best enjoyed with white rice accompanied with a veggie side or with some veggie fritters and usually served at lunch. This is served not only as an everyday dal but also if you are serving a traditional Bengali lunch.

You can also have it by itself like I did yesterday, a bowl of this Dal with some crisp salad of finely chopped cucumber and carrots in lime juice.


What You Need

Split Yellow Moong Dal ~ 1 cup
Lauki or Bottle Gourd ~ 6oz cut into large cubes as seen in the above pic. I used a little less than half of a medium sized lauki
Karela or Bitter Gourd ~ 1 cut into small pieces as seen in the pic
Ginger ~ 2" grated

For Phoron or temperingMustard seeds ~ 1/2 tsp mustard
Green Chillies ~ 4-5 slit

Ghee ~ 2 tsp

How I Did It

Wash, Peel and chop the Lauki or bottle gourd in large pieces a seen in the pic.
Wash & Chop the karela or bitter gourd in small pieces as seen in the pic
Heat a Kadhai or Frying Pan
Dry roast the split yellow moong dal till you get that nice roasted smell and see the dal has browned very lightly
In a pressure cooker, cook the now roasted dal and the lauki with twice the amount of water i.e. dal : water in ratio of 1:2
Heat Oil & 1 tsp of Ghee in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. My mother uses Ghee but I used Canola and a little bit of ghee for that flavor. You can do this in ghee if you want
Sauté the chopped karela till they are lightly browned and remove and keep aside
Add 1/2 tsp of mustard seeds to the oil
When the Mustard starts sputtering add the grated ginger and slit green chillies
Sauté for a couple of minutes and add the pressure cooked dal and lauki
Sauté a little and add the fried karela
Add about 3-4 cups of water
Add salt and bring to a boil
Add about ½ tsp of Ghee before you take the Dal off the heat
Enjoy with white rice and other veegie sides. We had this with thinly sliced potato fries and hot white rice

Why Bitter Gourd is Good For you

This is a tropical and subtropical vine, which is widely grown for edible fruit. The fruit is among the most bitter of all vegetables. This is also known as Bitter Melon and there is a Chinese as well as Indian variety
The bitter melon more typical of India has a narrower shape with pointed ends, and a surface which is ridged. It looks like the one shown in the above pic and is known as Karela in Hindi and Korolla in Bengali. There is another smaller variety which is commonly known as Uchche in Bengal and is supposed to be more bitter.
Bitter Gourd aids or stimulates digestion. It is also very useful in treating Diabetes Melitus and helps control Blood Sugar. Compounds in this bitter vegetable may also be effective for treating HIV. Check Wiki here for more info.
Another Good Source of Bitter Gourd info -- here

Note: Pressure Cooker tips from IndoSunGod

Trivia:Other than India the Bitter Gourd also known as Bitter Melon is very popular in China, Vietnam, Phillipines, Bangladesh and Pakistan


  1. it seems it wont taste so bitter when it is with dal. Oh! nice. never tried though. will try once. thanks

  2. i've had sambar with this and it's not bitter till you bite into the vegetable. in our parts, we use jaggery and tamarind to tone down the bitterness.

  3. this is my favourite vegetable(err.. fruit?!!). my ma makes many items using this but its usually cooked with tamarind puree and jaggary. i have never had it in the form of dal. ur(mom's) recipe sounds really interesting. i have got one pack of frozen bitter gourd tucked in freezer. not sure if i can use this instead of fresh one.

  4. Sandeepa Dal with Bitter Gourd looks good, and also pretty interesting learning Bengali Cuisine. One thing I would love to know is about the staple Breafast of Bengalis. Post on that please sometime?

    I have never tried making Dal (or sambhar) with bitter gourd. Yes it is an acquired taste but one you are hooked on to. I usually make Puzhikuzhambu (tamarind based) curries with Bitter gourd.

  5. Arvind loves Bitter gourd dishes,I made one last month,still in the draft.Dal looks excellent.sra is right,got to add tamarind and Jaggery to tone it down.Arvind eats it with yogurt too.
    Great entry for WHB.Thanks for all the info too,very interesting to read!:))I will post mine tomorrow at Aroma.

  6. JFF
    Yeah the Dal doesn't really taste bitter :)

    You are right. But we do not use anything to deliberately tone down the bitterness :(

    Favourite Veggie ?? You would have been my Mother's darling :) Never cooked with tamarind or jaggery as our cuisine wants an emphasis on the bitterness, bitter the better kind

    Same as I told Supriya -- Never cooked with tamarind or jaggery as our cuisine wants an emphasis on the bitterness, bitter the better kind
    Staple Bengali breakfasts, ummmm, ok will have a postone day. But bengalis are not rigid when it comes to breakfasts and so there is a lot of variety

    See A is a doc and so understands the importance of this veggie :)

  7. Would you believe it, I have avoided bittergourd all my life because the name says it all, but I'm wondering now if I was just being silly. I saw it in the Asian supermarket the other day and I was tempted to buy it and try making something out of it... :)

  8. Hi Sandeepa. Nice recipe. I love karela. Pahakkai in Tamil. We make a sambhar like concoction called pahakkai pittalai with tur dal, tamarind and coconut. Another way of toning down the taste is to first boil the karela in water and use just the boiled water. This may cause loss of nutrients though.

  9. Hi sandeepa
    dal with bittergourd is a common dish on our household.but adding karela to it!!!never heard...great combo.

  10. Karela dal...hmmm never heard of it, we make currries and stews. This is new to me. My husband loves karela. Does the dal tastes bitter??

  11. Bitter gourd Dal looks good.I have only tried fried bitter gourd.We usually sok sliced bitter gourd in salted water for reducing the bitterness.

  12. Hema, Maheshwari

    I get from all of you that you guys try to tone down the bitterness of Karela. But in Bengali cuisine, they will NOT do anything to reduce the bitterness. I guess the bitterness is good for you and that is why we want to keep that taste intact

    Swapna & Padmaja
    No, the dal is not bitter. Sauting the Karela reduces the bitterness a little and everyone in my family (except me) likes to bite into a Karela and get that bitter taste, so they love this dal :)

  13. Shilpa
    If you have never had Karela before you should try cutting it in thin slices & soaking in salt water, and frying it like crispy fries

    As everyone said this tones down the bitterness. Or use some of the other methods mentioned to tone down the bitterness

    But most bengalis like the bitter taste and so we eat it the ways I mentioned, even steamed or boiled :)

  14. Hi Sandeepa

    Never hear of bitter gourd dal. Will try it sometime.

  15. Hi Sandeepa, thanks for the lovely tips! Yes, why not make fries out of them, or even koftas? Sounds good yah? :) It will go to my list No 4! Stay tuned! Bongs must really love their food to appreciate karela as it is! :) I can't even stand beer because it's bitter, haha!

  16. I make subzi with them never tried a dal...have to try it. thanks sandeepa.

  17. When I had GD during my pregnancy, I was told to have bittergourd at least once a day. I couldn't. I tried a few times but really could not ahve it without some accompanying sweetness, which nullified the effect of the bittergourd as far as GD goes! We make gojju with tamarind and jaggery with this. I love that!

    Have fun with your folks, Sandeepa! The weather is getting better too! Thank God! :)

  18. Hi Sandeepa -- I really enjoyed reading this post! I've tried this gourd on a couple of occasions; each time it was well-salted first!The thought of that toasted moong dal is enough to get me thinking about it again. Lovely photo too. Thanks for sharing :)

  19. This dal looks great.Never tried cooking the karela with dal though.As supriya said,we make it with tamarind paste and jaggery,a gravy type curry to go with rice.will have t try your version too.I never liked it as a kid but I guess I developed a taste for it and now I love it.BTW,love the Uchche too.We used to get a lot of it on Orissa,and is just great,isn;t it?

  20. Lakshmik

    Not sure about Koftas but there is a very popular North Indian dis -- "Stuffed Karelas" its tasty but the bitterness is toned a lot

    Would be nice to hear about your sabzi.

    I thinks most Bongs devour so much of sweet that they have to eat bitter to balanace off :) BTW was your doc a Bong ?
    You seemed to have similar symptoms like mine when I was expecting, finally GD did not happen though but my Doc had put me on a diet just suspecting that might come up :)


    I was beginning to think you are from Orissa and meant asking you too. But i guess you grew up there

  21. Hi Sandeepa...oh,this is K's fav veggie..i for one am not too sure about it yet....eating it with a daal just may change my mind! This is a nice recipe.


  22. I guess Bongs have so many recipies involving Karela, I havent seen anyone else has it. Actually with so much sweets, bongs use jhaal and teto to balance it. I think most of non-veg in bong or anything using shorshe bata is jhaal.

    The pic of the dal and rice and aloo fry reminded me of home and it used to be my favorite. And that Aloo bhaja was fun to eat with daal always.

    How about Tok -er Daal with aam in it? Could you publish that recipie.

  23. and btw, ucche juice in the morning used to keep my worms at bay in the morning when I was a kid. Talk about eating bitter stuff, nothing has topped that so far, when you have just brushed your teeth and need to go brush the teeth after again.

  24. TS
    Thanks and give it a try :)

    Ar "Chirotar Ros" ar "Neem begun"...I guess we Bongs love to be bitter :)
    Amar money "neem Pata" pele I could do a post on that...keu ar ei rokom teto khay bole mone hoche na to.

    Hyan good idea...I love "taker dal" but somehow associate it with summer..but shall try to cook it up soon.

  25. Hi Sandeepa:) Thanks for visiting my blog and thus leading me to a greatttt place. You know, the most popular thing about a Bong and Mallu is the same,love for Fish! and looks like both of us share the same ;) I was going thru ur fish preps and was stuck on Kala Jeera. Whts that? Is it cumin or something else ?
    Btw, I loved ur writing and presentation style and u got a wonderful collection of recipes too. Will drop by frequently:)
    Have a lovely day

  26. Mishmash
    YYayy for the love of thy fish :)

    Kala Jeera is NOT Cumin

    It is Kalonji in Hindi. That is what is also written on the pack in the local "Patel" which sells it

  27. Hi again Sandeepa! Yes, I've heard of stuffed bittergourds (bharela karela?)! Am getting all excited about making them!

    But to answer mishmash's question, kalonji is also known as nigella or onionseed (a misnomer), isn't it?

  28. Very nice and interesting post, Sandeepa! Bitter gourd is a great addition to dal. I never tried bitter gourd this way, will try it now.

  29. Hi sandeepa
    somehow urs and mine are matching have u rememebered when u posted the noolkol(kolhrabi)curry ,i also do the same post on my blog!and now also bitter gourd..:-))

  30. 'taker dal' has mango, another thing uniquely bong. My mom makes ucche aloo sorshe batar jhaal ... I can eat the whole lunch with just that but ofcourse, bongs cant finish their food with teto jinish. Neem begun aar ucche begun has always been my favorite so far.

  31. I loved your BitterGourd recipe. I love the veggie/fruit and am always looking for new ways to cook them. Could you please post the recipes for the other karela dishes you had mentioned in the link.

  32. Shilpa
    You are right

    Thanks and you should have that "Bharela Karela" recipe

    Yeah, same pinch :)

    Ami khub ekta teto khete pari na, kintu oi sorsher uchche jhal amader bariteo hoy

    Ok shall try to post, all of them are very simple recipes, only I need to get the pics :)

  33. Bitter gourd and doodhi in dal!!!!! This is surely new to me!!!! Our Ma's have these interesting combinations always!!! :)

  34. My Japanese host mother taught me the wonders and Japanese recipes for bitter gourd/melon. Your recipe looks so fresh and inviting, I'll have to try it in another culture's rendition. Thanks for participating in WHB!

  35. I keep reading about this vegetable and I want to taste it. I like bitter olives, so maybe I'd like it.

  36. Hi Sandeepa,

    I tried the dal yesterday. It came out good and had just the right amount of bitterness; but for some reason, the dal became very thick. Is it supposed to have a thick consistency? I added the recommended amount of water. Maybe I overcooked it in the Pressure Cooker (2 whistles).

    Anyway, thanks for posting the recipe. I really enjoy reading your recipes and trying them out. I had previously tried your "Spicy egg bake" and that was really delicious :-)

    Happy cooking,

  37. Suchandra
    Thanks for the comments
    I am trying to think why it became too thick :) After pressure cooking, it does become thick with the lauki and everything in it. At this point Did you whisk it with the lauki by any chance, the laukis should not get mashed, they will be cooked but retain their form.

    But was it thick even after tempering. Remember about 3-4 cups of water was required at that point ? The Dal is not supposed to ve very thick but it won't be watery or runny either, so I am not exactly sure what you mean :)

    If you could tell me your steps I could help a little more

  38. Nice info shared by u,
    Do visit my blog too for some interesting recipes,and dont forget to share your views,Happy Cooking....!!!


  39. I tried out your recipe and it was a hit. I liked this recipe but i only added turmeric powder which was missing in your recipe.Thanks a lot for this trat.

  40. I tried your recipe . I liked it . I only added turmeric which was missing in your recipe. Thanks for this treat. I like to see Tok Dal in future.

  41. Hey Adhyaksha
    Thanks. Good you reminded me. I too add turmeric but maybe missed writing it

  42. Sandeepa,

    I have been finding your recipes so inspirational; your descriptions are so evocative that I can almost taste it just by reading it.

    I have succumbed to the temptation to make this one, albeit with an adaptation of the ingredients to suit our palates and what we had on hand, and it was fabulous!

    I find your recipes and your style such an inspiration that I've started food-blogging myself, posting my interpretation of this dish over on my blog at ruchi chuchu.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful work that you are doing here.

  43. we use fenugreek apart from mustard seeds as phoron but not green chillies. interesting variant

  44. tetor dal-e radhuni foron-o khub valo lage

  45. Had this tetor daal all through my childhood....the taste is therefore a bit nostalgic. Radhuni foron gives a flavour but I always had it with mustard foron......we used to call it "titar daal". The bitterness however gets reduced due to bottle gourd. Khub bhaalo khete


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