Friday, May 14, 2010

Aviyal - my mother's way

I have a slightly odd love-dislike (not hate, never that) affair with aviyal, that classic Kerala dish of vegetables in coconut gravy. There are specific requirements for both the love and the dislike to happen. I love aviyal when:

a. It is made with thinly cut vegetables (and does not involve aubergines)

b. It uses tamarind for that hint of sourness rather than buttermilk or curds

c. It is eaten fresh and hot

I dislike aviyal when:

a. The vegetables are cut in a fashion that brings to mind large railway sleepers – and about as thick as well!

b. It contains buttermilk or curds (this one pretty obvious, huh?)

c. It’s cold and/or old (as in more than a day old). Reheated aviyal does nothing for me – especially if it was made with buttermilk or curds.

I do realise that probably hundreds of thousands of people do make aviyal with buttermilk (or curds). Small aside: Should I mention both buttermilk and curds every single time, or will just one or the other do? Pls leave your opinion in the comments section, even if it's too late to matter for this post. :) But there will be other posts, after all, and what if this situation occurs again and I am left without a majority opinion to heed? What then, huh? What then?

So, anyway... since my mother has always used tamarind and prefers the taste, I do too. I’ve always considered aviyal a complicated dish, carefully nurturing my ignorance by never even considering it worthwhile to see how it was made. This year, though, when my mother said she’d made aviyal for the Tamil New Year, I felt a slight craving for it. Too bad she lives a few thousand miles away in Seattle... so naturally I was forced to make it myself.

The thing that sealed the deal for me was that I actually had young, fresh, tender green bananas in the house plus some fresh bottlegourd. I had bought them practically wholesale from a quick trip to Birmingham with Pete. He was picking up some speakers that he’d bought, and I tagged along - because I like tagging along in general, and also because of the always-hopeful thought in the back of my mind that I might be able to pick up some Indian vegetables. Well, actually, that thought is always at the forefront of my mind. (Do I HAVE to be 100% honest? Fine, it was the ONLY thought in my mind.)

As I was saying, aviyal was on the cards and I wanted to make it exactly like my mother does. I rang her for the recipe and got instructions that more or less said “cut and cook vegetables, grind coconut with green chillies, add tamarind, mix well, season with coconut oil and curry leaves”.

Was that it, I asked her, a trifle confused. Was she holding back on me? Where were the complicated instructions? That was the entire recipe? That was what I’d considered difficult all this while? How embarrassing!

So I made the aviyal – and believe me, cutting the vegetables was the most complicated part. The aviyal tasted just as it did in the memorybank of tastes that is stored somewhere in my head (or in my tongue?)... and since Pete didn’t want any part of it, there was enough for my meal the next day too. Yeah, I reheated it. AND liked it. Yes, I know what I said earlier. My excuse is that I’ve not had aviyal at all for many years, so I’m allowed to be contradictory of my own self in my own post. So there you have it.

Recipe for:



3 cups mixed vegetables, sliced into 1/2-cm thick matchsticks (a combination of carrots, potatoes, green plantains, green beans, bottlegourd/squash/courgettes, peas)


3 tbsp freshly grated coconut
4-5 green chillies (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp tamarind paste
8-10 fresh curry leaves
salt to taste


1. Cook all the vegetables till done, but not mushy.


You can do this in a pressure cooker (much quicker than anyhow else) or on the hob, or in the microwave.

2. Grind together the coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies


to a smooth paste using warm water.


3. Add the coconut paste to the vegetables along with salt to taste, and mix well. Mix tamarind paste with 2-3 tbsp water and add that as well (increase to 1/2 cup water if there isn't enough to make a gravy).


4. Sprinkle the curry leaves over, then pour in the coconut oil and mix again.


Heat the aviyal thoroughly (careful not to burn it) and serve hot with steamed rice.


Anonymous said...


What about the tamarind ?? Not required ?

Shyam said...

OrbitBud: Argh! How embarrassing! After everything I said about tamarind in aviyal - and then I forgot to put it in the recipe!!! Thanks for pointing it out, I've rectified the omission. :)

Hari Chandana said...

Nice recipe.. thanks for sharing dear.. lovely clicks too..

Asha said...

Haha! Funny read indeed although Avial is a seriously tasty dish. I love it but I always follow Kerala style religiously. Avial with Tamarind sounds great and looks yummy too, must try.
I think Curds refers to thick Yogurt and Buttermilk is thinner when we add a bit of water to thin. My two cents! :D
Have a great weekend.Son went to DC for school trip, was busy y'day packing for him.

brinda said...

Serve hot with steamed rice.

And chips (nendran, for choice, or potato). And appalam. Or pappadam fried in coconut oil if you want to be fully Malayalee. But as far as I'm concerned, you can't have avial without chips.

Shyam said...

Hari Chandana: Thanks! :)

Asha: yeah, but is it curds or buttermilk in the authentic kerala recipe? :)

Brin: Aviyal with appalam/pappadam very okay, but with chips??? POTATO chips? Doesnt seem right! :) Aviyal with vadu manga or avakkai...oh drool!

Rekha shoban said...

all time favourite one...healthy too!

Inji said...

Aviyal looks absolutely fantastic. I hate brinjals in aviyal too. Green bananas and drumstick add a very good flavour. I always make it with curds/buttermilk :) Will try this version too - handy for those times when there are no curds.

brinda said...

Chips. From Grand Sweets. Vazhakkai, potato... mmmmmmmm

Swarna said...

shyam, avial done tirunelveli way, has tamarind in it and never curds or buttermilk. you know the best bit I like about avial-the next day, they make what is called "pazhangari" literally "palaya kari - old curry", mixing the avial with either the leftover sambhar, or leftover pulikuzhambu(vathakuzhambu) and let it boil until it becomes a thick thokku consistency. *drool* The best taste and best curry you can ever have with thayir sadam, kal dosai or even idlis.
now I'm seriously salivating!

Shyam said...

Rekha: Yeah, with all those vegetables! :)

Inji: brinjals are much too mushy for aviyal - not that I'd eat 'em in anything else.

Brin: *sigh* I'll ONLY let you off because you're nowhere near Grand Sweets either :)

Swarna: Aha! Aha aha aha! I didn't know it was a Tirunelveli tradition to use tamarind! NOW it makes sense, although I should've known this since my family comes from the Tirunelveli area. I shall try mixing aviyal with vathakuzhambu next time I make both. Thanks very much for the info! :)

Mika said...

Aviyal, yummy. I feel the yogurt one is more popular since most versions are yogurt based and my mom's family makes it this way . But my MIL makes it your way. I switch between the two types but I prefer the yogurt based one:-). The sprinkling of coconut oil and curry leaves at the end really makes aviyal what it is, drool..

Premalatha said...

I love aviyal on its own. never tasted one with tamarind in it. Should try sometime. But I normally do not have all the right vegetables (esp plantain). I probably might have made it just three or four times in my entire life. same goes for mohrkulambu, though it doesn't need so many veggies.

A_and_N said...

I used to hate avial. Now, I love it. And I totally get you when you say you like your veggies cut long. I'm like that for every dish!

Jyothsna said...

I love avial the traditional way but I've had it with tamarind too and was nice. SOmehow avial is incomplete without ash gourd in it, never found ash gourd in London, any idea where it's available in these parts?

Shyam said...

Jyothsna: True... I adore ash gourd. You're likely to get it in Sri Lankan grocery shops - that's where i found some once. Try Sri Ganesh Cash & Carry in Ealing (you can google the address), or the shops on East Ham High Street.

Maya Khan said...


Love ur recipes! Ur blog reminisced me abt Srirangam, my home town. Anyway, I live in Birmingham and was wondering where I could find ash gourd, shallots( sambhar vengayam) and other south Indian ingredients. oh Narthanga as well..Would really appreciate ur help!


abhisha roshan said...

thanks for ur recipe...i always prefer curd while preparing avial.(in my opinion u can mention curd alone instead of mentioning curd or/and buttermilk everytime).even my husband who is a disiker of avial likes my avial very much tht he will lick his fingers everytime(trust me i am not boastng)... bt my only problem vth curd is its tie up vth cholesterol...and so my search for an alternative ends up here and thanks a lot for it..