I love hyacinth beans (or avarakkai, in Tamil). The fresh green ones, I mean. I could probably eat a ton of them if only I could lay my hands on them. Unfortunately they're only available at South Indian (or Sri Lankan) greengrocers down South, and even then not all of the time - I think. I don't really know what the season is for these tasty beans, or I could at least try and make the trip to coincide with their availability!
I've had a small pack of vall beans (the dried ones) for YEARS, I think. I bought them I don't know when on a whim, without knowing what they were, and then proceeded to ignore them completely. I didn't ignore them on purpose - I'd merely forgotten about their existence. Then I rediscovered them at the bottom of the box in which I store my unopened supplies, and brought them back to the surface to try out.
But it was when I found out that val beans are the dried seeds (? right word?) of avarakkai that I was galvanised into cooking with them. (When I say galvanised, I mean my version of it. Other people when galvanised might immediately do whatever they've been galvanised to do, but I tend to take my time. Continental drift has nothing on it.) I decided to make dal with the beans and the last of a bag of fresh spinach.
Since I didn't how long the dal would take to cook on the hob, I pressure-cooked it. When I opened the container, I got quite excited as there was a distinct aroma of avarakkai... which in retrospect need not have come as quite such a surprise because they were after all avarakkai beans! The finished dish had an underlying flavour of the hyacinth beans, which I liked very much. I couldn't help wondering, though, if whole vall dal would have a stronger flavour... so I guess I'll have to be on the lookout for those babies!
Recipe for: Dal with vall beans
1 cup vall dal
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped finely
2-3 green chillies, minced (to taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
2 cups spinach
1 tsp garam masala (I used Kitchen King)
1 tsp cumin-coriander powder
salt to taste
2 tsp oil
1. Pressure cook the vall dal for three whistles till done. Reserve.
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onions, ginger, green chillies and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes, then add the tomatoes. Fry till the tomatoes are soft and mushy.
3. Add the spinach now, cover with a lid and let it wilt on med-low heat.
4. Add the garam masala, cumin-coriander powder and mix it in.
5. Finally, pour in the cooked vall dal and stir to distribute the masala evenly. Add salt to taste.
6. Serve hot with rotis or rice.