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Kerala Dishes, Sadya, South Indian Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes

Avial – Kerala Mixed Vegetable Dish – A Lesson Learned Well


When we moved to Bangalore in the late seventies, we rented a small, cozy house on the West Of Chord Road where the houses were few and far in between. Windy and cold in the evenings, I used to spend  them listening to songs on my trusted transistor, trying to turn out a passable dinner. My husband used to work late and my parents  suggested we move to a secure flat.We informed our landlord, who sent prospective tenants only on Sundays .An early Monday morning, we picked up my relative who was visiting – from the station and my husband left for work.

The doorbell rang .I opened the door  to see a well dressed, man who politely insisted that the landlord had given him permission to look over the house. No amount of reasoning would dissuade him. Put it down to youthful innocence – I allowed him in after taking his phone number.When he saw my cousin he left in haste seemingly in a hurry to get back.

In the evening try as we might we could not get the call through. It dawned on us that he might not have been who he claimed at all… as was confirmed by our landlord. The enormity of my folly dawned on me. Never open the door to a stranger !!!!

Avial is a colourful medley of vitamin-rich vegetables cooked in a curd and coconut sauce, enhancing the taste without taking away the natural flavour. No sadya is complete without this semi-dry preparation.The treatment of avial differs throughout the length and breadth of Kerala. In colloquial language we use avial to mean a mixture of many things.

Researching the origin of avial, I found many versions of it, the most plausible of them being – a very, very long time ago, a great person of foresight, seeing the leftovers of a sadya preparation gave instructions to the cooks to make a new dish with these vegetable peels and voila, the Prince of the Sadya was born.

AVIAL-KERALA MIXED VEGETABLE DISH

Preparation time: 30 minutes        Serves – 6             Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  1. Yam (Chena) – 150 gms
  2. Raw banana – 1
  3. Drumstick (Muringakaya) – 1 (cut in 2″ length piece)
  4. Cucumber (Vellirika) – 150 gms
  5. Snake Gourd (Padavalanga) – 100 gms
  6. Carrot – 2 (small)
  7. Long string beans (Achinga payar) – 150gms
  8. Curds – 1/2 cup
  9. Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  10. Salt  – to taste
  11. Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
  12. Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  13. Chilli powder – a pinch
  14. Green chilly – 1 slit

     Coarse coconut mixture

  1. Grated coconut – 1/2
  2. Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
  3. Green chillies – 1
  4. Curry leaves – A Few
  5. Small onion – 3 (optional)

Preparation:

  • Clean vegetables and cut them length-wise about 2″ length and thinly slice it.
  • Rub salt, turmeric and chilly powder into the vegetables and keep aside for 10 minutes.
  • Add 1 tbsp oil in a pressure cooker. Add vegetables, a green chilly and a sprinkling of water .
  • Cook the vegetables in the pressure cooker for about 3 mins, or till a whistle is heard. The pieces should be well cooked, but intact.
  • Coarsely grind the scrapes of coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds in a little curd.
  • Add the coconut mixture to the vegetables,on a low-medium flame, stirring all the time followed by the rest of the curd and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Before taking off the heat, garnish with the remaining coconut oil and the curry leaves. Close pan and put off the flame. Avial is ready.

Please Note that:

  1. Earlier, only the local vegetables, including jackfruit, were used; now later entrants like carrots,peas, green beans, aubergine, etc… are used except for a few like ladies finger which gets squishy.
  2. If you love spice, add more green chillies.
  3. Adding coconut oil and cooking vegetables in it (tip by a super cook) is a recent discovery , but it gave me a tastier version as it retains the flavour of the vegetables while water tends to dilute it.
  4. Alternatively, vegetables can be cooked in a thick bottomed pan; add water just enough to cook and proceed as above.
  5. Tamarind, curd or raw green mango can be used to provide sourness. When adding tamarind, add it with the vegetables to be cooked, and for mango – peel, slice or cut fine – and add to the vegetables.

Quick TipWhen baking, use an aluminium foil to line the pan,to prevent burnt-on stains.

Quick SnackNothing to beat the onion bhajji. Take a cup of besan in a bowl. Rub in to the besan ,onions – 1/2 cut fine, red chilly powder – 1 pinch, green chilly – 1/2 cut fine, curry leaves – cut small, coriander leaves – 1 sprig (cut small), hing -1/4 tsp and salt to taste. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir well so as to completely dissolve it without leaving any lumps. Keep aside for 10 mins. With a teaspoon, pour small batches of it in the hot oil and deep fry. Serve hot with tomato ketchup or chutney.

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About Paddy

When I married and came to Bangalore, it was a real ‘Pensioners’ Paradise.’ The climate was as today’s generation would say – ‘Awesome’. It was cool and pleasant throughout the year. My parents cautioned me to keep warm and have given me the loveliest Kashmir shawls, which I treasure to this day. Since I could not distinguish between rice and dal, cooking was an uphill task. I had a cook from Kerala, but the cold weather did not suit her and in a month’s time, she went back. Looking back, I have come a long way now… Cooking for me has metamorphosed from a daily routine of making edible and nutritious food for my family to an exciting journey of creativity by experimenting with different flavors and ingredients. To me, food is not only for nourishment and sustenance. Its taste and flavors take us back to our good times too. Food is nostalgia and comfort. It brings home our culture. Food is a treat and nourishment for the soul too. I dedicate this blog to my parents, who instilled in me a strong sense of ethics and discipline, and whose affection, love and support gives me strength in this journey of life. I feel the need of today’s generation, who come away from their homes and crave for home cooked food. To you too, I dedicate this blog, where I will share the recipes that I have learnt and grown to love over the years.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “Avial – Kerala Mixed Vegetable Dish – A Lesson Learned Well

  1. Hi Vama,

    Was waiting for this recipe… this is going to be my weekend project. An update with photos will follow 🙂

    Devi

    Posted by Arun Krishna Pilali | March 15, 2012, 9:37 PM
  2. Hi Vama,

    Was waiting for this recipe… this is going to be my weekend project. An update with photos will follow 🙂

    Devi

    Posted by Devi AJ | March 15, 2012, 9:39 PM
  3. Dear Padmini,

    Such a great idea starting this blog – so nice to try out a trusted cook’s recipes. Will be trying out many niche Kerala recipes that have eluded me so far. The pics are great and those little anecdotes at the beginning are winners. Wish u all the best.

    malathy

    Posted by malathy chettur | March 20, 2012, 10:00 PM
  4. Hi Padmini,
    Thank you for sending me the link. Green bananas, drumsticks and suran are must for Aviyal. The green bananas I buy in Chicago come from Costa Rica which are meatier, but with less fiber than the ones you buy in India. If you don’t watch they will breakdown into a puree. They are less tasty than the bananas you buy in India. The drumsticks and suran come frozen. Once again, if you are not watchful they will be cooked to the point of breaking down. I don’t use a pressure cooker. I cook on the stove using a cast iron or cast aluminum pot with lid. While garnishing I use corn oil mixed with a little coconut oil to bring out the flavor. I find that if you warm the oil in a frying pan and add the curry leaves to it before garnishing the Aviyal, more of the curry leaf fragrance is released.

    Gopiettan.

    Posted by Govindan Chettur | March 23, 2012, 12:19 AM
    • Dear Gopiettan,
      Thanks for visiting the blog and for sending an informative and practical note on Avial. In Bangalore too ,Nendrakkaya is not available,so I use substitutes.I will try your method of garnishing next time. Looking forward to hearing more from you.
      Padmini

      Posted by Paddy | March 29, 2012, 5:52 PM

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