South Indian lunch

BM #116 : Week 4, Day 2
Theme : Simple everyday thali

The post for today is inspired from my mother in law’s cooking. This is the meal she used to prepare everyday when we were all staying together. Everyday lunch and dinner was a three course meal. First course is rice served with sambar and a stir fry/porial. Second course is rice with rasam, again with the stir fry and pappadam on the side. Third course is rice and yogurt with pickle.

Three course of rice doesn’t mean that you actually eat a ton of rice, it just means that you eat the quantity in three divisions. My mother in law usually won’t prepare a stir fry and a kootu at the same time. Also, since no one likes bitter gourd there, it won’t be chosen for the porial.

Bitter gourd is one of my favorite vegetables, but it was something I gave up as my husband doesn’t like it at all. I bought it for this thali after a really long time. I ended up making kootu as a back up option in case my husband won’t eat the porial. I needn’t have worried, he enjoyed it and took second servings too. Talk about changing taste buds :-). Kootu was one of the Curries I grew up eating. I never liked it as a kid, I would eat it but not happily. Again, it is one of the things that just changed with time.

Read on for the recipes and more pictures.

The thali has

  1. Rice
  2. Pappadam
  3. Sambar
  4. Rasam
  5. Pavakka (bitter gourd)
  6. Chow chow kootu
  7. Yogurt
  8. Pickle

Pavakka fry:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt as needed
  • 3 bitter gourds, Pitted and cut into semicircles


  1. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. Once it pops, add chili powder, turmeric powder and salt as needed into the oil. Mix with a spoon and add the sliced bitter gourd pieces.
  2. Mix well to evenly distribute the spices. Cover and cook , stirring in between until the bitter gourd is done. Taste test and adjust seasonings, if needed. Take off the heat and serve with rice and sambar.

Chow chow kootu:

  • 2 cups chayote/chow chow, peeled, pitted and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup moong dal, cooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 red chili
  • Salt as needed


  1. Wash and clean the dal. Pressure cook along with the diced chow chow with enough water and the turmeric powder for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. Grind coconut with red chilies and jeera seeds, adding water if necessary, into a smooth paste. Set aside.
  3. In a pan, add the oil. Once it’s hot, add the mustard seeds and red chilies and let the seeds pop. Now add the cooked dal and chow chow mix along with the water in which it’s cooked. Add the ground coconut paste and salt. Let it come to a boil. Taste test and adjust seasonings, if needed. Remove from heat and serve hot with rice.

Sambar recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 small piece of dry hing
  • 1/2 cup of toor dal, washed and cooked
  • 6 ladies finger, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced, optional
  • 1 small tomato, diced, optional
  • 2 tablespoons sambar powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 3 cups water
  • salt as needed


  1. Pressure cook 1/2 cup of toor dal. I cook it along with rice using a separator vessel. Let the pressure release naturally.
  2. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. Once it pops, add the fenugreek seeds and the hing piece. Once fenugreek seeds change color, add the onions and ladies finger. Sauté until it’s done. Add the diced tomato, sambar powder, salt and turmeric powder. Mix well.
  3. Add three cups of water and tamarind paste. Mix well and let it cook for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Now add the cooked dal after mashing it with a ladle. The dal should be smooth and kind of puréed when you are adding it to the sambar. Let it come to a boil. Taste test and adjust seasonings if needed. Let the sambar boil for another 5-8 minutes or until it reaches the consistency of your choice. You can add a little more water if it’s too thick. Turn off the heat once it reaches the consistency you like.

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7 thoughts on “South Indian lunch

  1. This is perfect thali for our family and we enjoy anything south Indian. I agree to you about our food preferences and choices changes as we grew up. I end up eating everything after marriage. When mom cooks, I always have preference :)


  2. Similar kind of set up in our household also. One poriyal or kootu and kuzhambu, rasam and buttermilk. Sometimes mom skips rasam also. Love this entire thali and I wish I could send you some bitter gourd. The harvest is crazy this year.


  3. Our everyday meal is just there in your picture except that we wouldn’t have sambar and kootu as they both are lentil based. And papad is once in a blue moon affair as well. But a total comforting meal.


  4. That is one comforting meal for any south Indian without any doubt. Our everyday meal still looks like this :) except that there won’t be that kootu. For us, even pickle and curry are courses and so we end up with 4 or 5 courses depending upon whether we have rasam or not. I prepare a similar version sambhar but I need to check your recipe index after this marathon if you got any other versions. :)


  5. Gosh, you wrote all three recipes in one post!.. it’s becoming so tough for me…anyway about the plate, its no way simple one, yet this is what we cook on daily basis right…we too don’t make kootu and poriyal together on a weekday. Becomes too heavy for work lunch..I would love this meal anytime Rajani. As you said, with years behind, we have changed so much!


  6. I would love to eat a simple thali like this, it looks so comforting , and that karela is my favourite too .

    Tell me , you just chop them and sauté ? We normally peel and marinate – never directly ! Does the bitterness go away ?

    For us a chapati is kind of must specially if we have something like karela on the menu .


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