I had never heard of pitlai before I tasted this in July this year when we were in Coimbatore at the in-laws’ place. MIL had made this Kathirikai Chana pitlai for for lunch the day we landed and much like everything else she cooks, it was delicious.
I have learnt so much from her style of cooking, not to mention all the super easy yet delicious Tamil Brahmin recipes. Pitlai to me seemed like a mash-up between sambar and kootu but has a distinct flavour of its own too.
Note that pavakkai pitlai and kathirikkai pitlai (pitlai with bitter gourd or brinjal / eggplant) are the popular pitlai recipes that show up in Brahmin homes all the time.
Chana Pitlai Recipe
Serves 6-8 people
1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind
1/2 cup of cooked and mashed toor dal
1/2 cup of grated coconut
1 tbsp of sambar powder
1 pinch of hing / asafoetida / perungaayam
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup of cooked channa / chickpeas (soak overnight and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles or used canned chickpeas)
1 small eggplant, cut into cubes
A pinch of jaggery
Salt to taste
4-5 of dry red chillies
3 tbsp of kadala paruppu / Bengal gram / channa dal
4 tbsp of coriander seeds / daniya / malli
A few of fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp ghee or oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A few curry leaves
1/2 cup grated coconut
How to Make Pitlai:
1. Soak the tamarind in water. Extract juice and discard the pulp. Transfer the tamarind juice to a cooking pan and add salt, sambar powder, some turmeric powder, hing, eggplant and cooked channa. Keep in mediam flame and cook for about 20 mins.
2. In the mean time fry the masala in a little oil until nicely browned. Cool slightly and grind it in to paste along with 1/2 cup of coconut.
3. Check on the boiling tamarind mixture now. Once the eggplant is cooked and soft, add the cooked toor dal, mix well and bring to boil. Then add the ground masala paste with some jaggery, bring to boil and remove from fire.
4. Heat oil or ghee for tempering and add the rest of the ingredients. When the coconut has turned golden brown, add to the pitlai and mix well.
Serve hot with rice and mor kuzhambu.