Monday, February 13, 2006

ARF/5-a-Day Tuesday #7

It's that time again already - welcome back, Sweetnicks! Glad you had a wonderful holiday!

My entry this week is avarakkai - a kind of flat broad green bean that tastes a bit like runner beans but is way better than that! I would give the English name for this vegetable, but I dont know what it's called. So it's going to stay Tamil and be known as avarakkai.

Avarakkai really are my favourite kind of fresh beans. Nowadays French beans (or snap beans) have had the stringy bit bred right out of them, but avarakkai need the string removing before slicing.

You can cook it with sliced onions or add fresh grated coconut to it once it's done, and both versions are nice in their own way. But I like it best the way my mother makes it for me - which is simply sliced, seasoned and pan fried. It's best not overcooked (even though I like it shrivelled) and if, like me, you like the natural, sort of juicy taste of fresh green beans, this is the only way to have them!

I got my avarakkai from a vegetable shop in Southampton last weekend - it was a revelation to see just how much variety there was in groceries "down south", as they call it... all sorts of vegetables and fruit from all over the world, some that I knew and some that I didnt.To think I thought Birmingham was good for fresh "Indian" vegetables...!

I would have loved to experiment with some of the unknown (to me) vegetables, but I didnt buy any because I knew I wouldnt have enough time to do them justice... there wouldnt have been much point buying stuff that would have just gone waste. But how I wish that variety was available closer home!

Oh well. That's what I get for living up North.

Recipe for:
Avarakkai curry


1/4 kg avarakkai (3 cupfuls when sliced)

For seasoning:

2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp
garlic-sesame molagapodi (optional)
2 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder if you have it
Salt to taste


1. Heat the oil in a pan and do the seasoning, covering the pan till the mustard seeds have popped.

2. Toss in the sliced avarakkai and stir well to coat.

3. Turn the heat down low and cover the pan, letting the beans steam-cook for 8-10 minutes.

4. Uncover the pan and add salt to taste. Mix and turn the heat up for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans start to become a bit brownish.

5. Serve hot as a side dish with steamed rice and sambar or other South-Indian gravy preparation.


Anonymous said...

Shammi, do you take the pics at night? If you do, what kind of lighting do you use? I got this doubt because i thought you work full-time.
And your blog is great! I've been following it for a long time now.

Meenal Mehta said...

Hey Shammi ,

thanks for visiting blog..i love greens and am wondering if I will find these beans here ...

Meenal Mehta said...

correction...thanks for visiting "my " blog ..

hope you are having a good day

Anonymous said...

The bean is called "Hyacinth Bean" in the western world. And oddly enough, people don't consider it as an edible vegetable. I grew up in South India and love this bean and do grow it in by backyard in california. I bought the seeds off a catalog. They are sold as decorative vines for their beautiful flowers.
You have a great blog, and I like your honest narrative - especially the mistakes you make (sweet potato halwa?) makes the blog refreshing - you see. most blogs (and TV food shows too) have perfect pictures and perfect results very unlike normal people :)

ammani said...

I'd love to see your take on swede (the vegetable, not the blonde), avocado, parsnip, lettuce and savoy cabbage. All of the above mentioned get purchased regularly and get binned without fail.

(ydogs asks the word verification. I wonder as well)

Anonymous said...

Harsha - I take the pics as and when I cook. Weekdays, usually in the evenings, weekends in natural light! My camera lives almost permanently in the kitchen :) I'm also not a pro photographer - or even a knowledgeable amateur one... so what photos I take are with my digital camera, in what light there is in my kitchen. In other words, the tubelight in the ceiling! :)

Meenal - welcome to my blog. I had a pretty good day, thank you!

Ashley - thank you for your kind words, and for providing a name for these beans. And what a pretty name, too - hyacinth beans! I've gotta see if I can get them here and grow them.

Ammani - Havent tried swede but I will. Parsnips are great oven-roasted. Avocado... havent had it in a while, but I've got one ripening, because I'm gonna try the recipe for avocado chapaties! :)

Mika said...

Love avarakkai. I usually make it with coconut. Great entry for ARF!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I havent seen these in ages. I remember seeing them grow in the paddy fields..I remember loving the texture of it.

Unknown said...

Hi Shammi,
I've never seen avaraikai in ages. Can't recall when was the last I ate it. Thanx for reminding me of it.
Very nice blog u have. Keep up the good job.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind words, Pushpa. Actually this was the first time in the last 4-1/2 years that I saw avarakkai here!

Cinci said...


Is there an easy way to chop beans, avarakkai etc like a chopper or something? You have chopped the avarakkai very finely. You definitely have a lot of patience!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cinci, I'm sure there are tools that make chopping easy, but I dont bother with them because I like chopping veg :) I DO have a lot of patience that way, because I dont like vegetables that are unevenly cubed or chopped or whatever! I guess I'm weird, I just like cutting vegetables... it's relaxing :D

Cinci said...

Good for you Shammi coz as much as I love cooking and trying out new recipes, I hate the chopping part. Almost all of your recipies are worth trying out and the pics are nice too. Thanks

Pdk said...

Is Avarakkai same as Snow Pea? i tried it and it tasted the same.. help me out if u know.. here is the link for the mage of snow pea$96172314.jpg
thank u
Priya Dilip