It is raining Avare Kai in Bangalore! Pardon us for not providing the correct English name for Avare Kai. We tried net searching and found various names including field beans, lilva beans, hyacinth beans, navy beans and so on, but they seem to be used interchangeably with a number of varieties of beans! Avare Kai is called Mochai Kai in Tamil. The pods are removed, and the beans that are used in cooking are called Avare Kaalu or Mochai Kottai.
The yearly Avare Bele Mela, has commenced with all its star studded pomp and festivity. The entire venue at Bangalore's Sajjan Rao Circle, looks fresh and green, and the atmosphere is filled with the unique aroma of the beans. Sri Vasavi Condiments, is the shop which hosts the mela and offers hoards of huge varieties of eatables, sweet and savoury, prepared from avare kai. A true Avare Kai buff never chooses, but grabs all the varieties offered and craves for more!
Mother-in-law was a real Avare Kai fan and she would buy sacks full of them during her marketing stints. The old Kariappa after tending to the cows, would sit down with a mountain of Avare Kais in front of him, to remove the beans from the pods. We used the cooked beans in dosas, idlies, uppittus, rottis, sambars and usilis. Hituku Bele, literally meaning squeezed beans, is used to make a special dal. Avare Kaalu are soaked for about 6 to 10 hours, and then , each bean is squeezed out of its thin membraneous skin, one by one! Although it was a time consuming task, it was worth the wait for the delicacy prepared by my mother-in-law with great expertise.
Now a days we get Hituku bele or already squeezed beans in the horticultural societies. The fun of running behind and picking up the naughty lentils that leaped far, when squeezed out of their jackets is totally lost!
AVARE KAALU KURMAINGREDIENTS:
Avarekaalu – 2 cups
Curd – ½ cup
Salt – 2 tsps
Fresh Corriander leaves - 2 tbsp
Finely chopped tomatoes – optional for garnishing.
Cooking oil – 2 tbsp
Finely chopped onion – ¼ cup
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Bengal gram dal – 1 tsp
Cashew nuts – 10
Curry leaves – a few
For Kurma Masala Paste
Grind the following ingredients to a fine paste:
Fresh grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Coriander seeds – 2 tbsps
Garlic – 4 pods
Fresh ginger – 1’’
Cloves – 6
Sambar powder – 1 tsp (or green chillies – 2)
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Cumin seeds – ¼ tsp
Cashew nuts – 10
Soaked Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp (optional)
METHOD:1. Boil avarekai until tender and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds.
3. When it splutters add Bengal gram dal and fry till golden in colour.
4. Add cashew nuts and roast till golden in colour.
5. Add the chopped onion and curry leaves and cook till the onion is glassy. .
6. Now add the ground kurma masala paste and fry it, until the oil separates out.
7. Add the cooked beans, a cup of water and salt and cook.
8. Blend in the curd and cook for a few more minutes.
9. Garnish with fresh coriander and finely chopped tomatoes.
My children loved to carry ghee rice and Avarekai Kurma to the Drive-in theater, and relished it as they watched the Hindi masala movies on the large screen. If it was Friday evening, then Drive-in was the favorite outing, as the movies changed every Friday! If it was Drive in it, then we had to carry Avarekaalu Kurma and ghee rice. This habit had become a family "ritual" for almost a decade, until Drive-in was shut down to make way for a large Shopping Mall!