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Authentic easy recipe for a delicious Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal, an Indian curry of red lentils, bitter gourd, jaggery and ingredients from India's Konkan Coast, kokum and terphal (Sichuan Pepper)
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Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal

Authentic easy recipe for a delicious Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum Dal, an Indian curry of red lentils, bitter gourd, jaggery and ingredients from India's Konkan Coast, kokum and terphal (Sichuan Pepper) Serve with hot rice and a dry subzi for a special occasion or festive meal.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 2 people
Author: Sujata Shukla


To cook the lentils and bitter gourd

  • ½ cup Thowar dal / Red gram lentils arhar dal / pigeon pea lentils
  • ½ cup bitter gourd slices sliced into thin rounds or diced into 2 cm pieces
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 tablespoon jaggery powdered
  • a pinch salt
  • teaspoon turmeric powder

For grinding coconut paste

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 2-4 dry red chilies as per taste
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander seeds
  • 5 - 6 Black peppercorns
  • ½ cup grated coconut

For making the Goan Bitter Gourd Kokum dal

  • 2 kokum shells
  • 6 terphal or Sichuan Pepper See the blog post above on how to use this spice
  • 1- 2 tablespoon water as per preferred consistency
  • salt to taste

For tempering

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon Mustard seeds rai
  • a pinch Hing Asofoetida
  • a few curry leaves shredded


To Cook the dal and karela (bitter gourd0

  • Rinse the thowar dal. Slice the bitter gourd into rounds or dice them into small pieces, about 2 cm in length. I have not scraped the peel of the karela as I don't mind the bitterness, and also as the kokum, jaggery and terphal reduce the bitter flavours of the gourd.
  • Pressure cook the thowar dal (arhar dal) and the slices of bitter gourd, with the turmeric powder, jaggery and a pinch of salt, in 1½ cups of water. You may cook the gourd slices separately instead of with the dal, so that they don't become too soggy. If cooking them separately, add a pinch of salt and a pinch of turmeric powder to the slices. Cook for 2-3 whistles till the dal becomes soft.
    Pressure cook dal with jaggery and turmeric

To make the Coconut paste

  • While the dal is cooking, get all the ingredients in place for the coconut paste as per the ingredients list above. Heat the coconut oil in a small pan, add the red chillies (after removing the stalks), sauté for a few seconds, turning the chilies so that all sides fry evenly without becoming black. Add the coriander seeds and the black pepper corns. Sauté for 10 seconds and remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the contents to a small bowl to cool.
  • Grind the coriander, pepper and chillies along with the grated coconut and a little water, to a chutney or paste. Set aside till required.

To Make Goan Bitter Gourd Dal

  • Mash the cooked dal. Warm a pan and add the cooked dal and bitter gourd and stir. Add the coconut paste and the slices of kokum. Stir well add a little salt (lesser than you would normally use, as the terphal spice can enhance the saltiness) and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the dal for 5 minutes. This dal is meant to be thick, but if you prefer, add a little water, one table spoon at a time and stir it in till you get the desired consistency.
    To make the Goan Bitter gourd kokum dal, Cook dal coconut paste kokum
  • Toast the terphal (Sichuan peppercorn) lightly on a hot pan, for just a few seconds. Gently pound the terphal in a spoonful of water, in a mortar and pestle. Please read the instructions in the post above on how to prepare the terphal and why you shouldn't pound it too small or try to taste it raw.
    Lightly toast terphal (Sichuan pepper) and pound it gently in a mortar and pestle
  • Add the slightly pounded terphal spice to the dal. Stir, and let it cook on low flame for a few minutes. Taste and add more salt if required. The terphal has the property of making a sweet dish sweeter and a salty dish saltier, so add less salt while cooking the dal and taste for salt after stirring the terphal in. Take the dal off the stove and proceed to temper it.

To Temper the dhal

  • Heat coconut oil in a small pan (I used the same pan with left over coconut oil from sautéing the chillies and coriander seeds for the coconut paste). Add mustard seeds and once they crackle, add hing and then shredded curry leaves. (I always shred the curry leaves as they are nutritious but usually get discarded while eating. Shredding helps to get your family to eat at least some of these leaves!) Pour the tempering onto the prepared dal, and serve hot, with rice and a dry subzi.