Avial is a gentle dish from Kerala. It is a thick mixture of vegetables and coconut, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. In essence, the vegetables are boiled or steamed and then dressed with the coconut-cumin-yoghurt sauce. Each family’s sauce is different from the next family’s. In our recipe today we are using cumin in the sauce.
Avial is considered an essential part of the Sadya, the Keralite vegetarian feast. It is commonly made with elephant yam, plantain, pumpkin, carrots, beans, Eggplant, cucumber, drumsticks and snake gourd. Carrots and beans are recent but delicious introduction. Bitter gourd can be included in some regions also.
Some people prefer to leave out the yoghurt, and add raw mango or tamarind pulp.
Avial can be made with a liquid sauce of coconut and yoghurt, or the sauce remains thick and just coats the vegetables. It is generally eaten with rice.
The word “avial” is also used to denote ‘boiled’ or ‘cooked in water’ —this sense being derived from the way the dish is made. They say that the origins of this recipe is from the Nambudiri cuisine.
There is a lovely legend about the origins of Avial. In the 16th century, a King ordered his kitchen to provide a feast for his subjects that would last for 30 days. All went well for 29 days. On the 30th day they were almost out of oil – only a few drops left – and there was only a few bits and pieces of various vegetables left in the larder. This is the dish that he came up with.
Avial | Vegetables in a Coconut and Yoghurt Sauce
Source : recipes abound. This one is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey
Cuisine: Kerala in India
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15
Serves: 3 – 4 people, depending how you use it
100g okra cut into 2.5 cm lengths
1 medium carrot cut into sticks 2.5cm long and 1/2cm wide
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into sticks 2.5cm long and 1/2cm wide
100g green beans, top and tailed and cut into 2.5 cm pieces
100g plantain, peeled with a knife and cut into 1cm rounds
200g fresh grated coconut or frozen coconut
4 – 5 green chillies, coarsely sliced
1 tspn ground cumin
150ml Indian or Greek natural yoghurt
1.5 tspn sea salt
40-50 curry leaves
1 tspn coconut oil
Put the prepared okra, carrot, potato, green beans and plantains into a large pan with enough boiling water to cover. Simmer for 10 – 12 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Drain.
While they are cooking, use a blender to blend the coconut, chillies, cumin and 1/2 cup of water (or more as needed) to a smooth paste.
Beat the yoghurt with a fork or whisk. This stabilises it and lessens the chance of the yoghurt splitting.
Take a kadhai, wide pan or wok and gently mix the vegetables, coconut paste and yoghurt with the salt and curry leaves. Set over a low heat. Heat to just below boiling and remove from the heat. Stir in the coconut oil.
Serve with rice, or with Adai or other flatbread.
The mixed vegetables can also include cucumber, kumbalanga (similar to cucumber), baingan (eggplant), snake gourd or padaval, long beans, French beans, zucchini, squash and drumsticks.
Only use 1 or 2 carrots or otherwise the avial will be too sweet.
If using plantain, it can also be cut into long strips, mixed with 2 Tblspn yogurt and allowed to sit for 10 minutes before cooking.
Some or all of the yoghurt can be replaced with 1 Tblspn lemon juice or 1/3 cup diced raw mango.