It is interesting to compare the Madhur Jaffrey version of Kerala’s Aviyal (delicious) with this traditional Tamil version from Meenakshi Ammal (also delicious). Madhur Jaffrey wrote for Western audiences, and used commonly available ingredients and vegetables, while Meenakshi Ammal wrote for Indian wives using locally available produce. There will also be regional differences. The first thing I noticed is that Ammal specifically excludes okra from the recipe list, while Jaffrey includes it. (I did put a few in this time, I quite enjoy them.)
The recipe is one of Meenakshi Ammal’s from her cook books Cook and See. One of our very special projects in the kitchen is to cook through these books, as they are very traditional Tamil recipes.You can find all of Ammal’s dishes that we have made here. Most of them are from Vol 1 so far.
Avial can be made with a liquid sauce of coconut and yoghurt, or the sauce can remain thick and just coats the vegetables. It is generally eaten with rice.
The word aviyal (aka 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 but it is now common throughout South India.
Aviyal | Avial | Vegetables in a Coconut and Yoghurt Sauce
almost any vegetables can be used except okra (lady’s finger). Snakegourd, lauki, sabre beans, tender cluster beans, colocasia, drumstick, green beans, chow chow, eggplant, plantain, pumpkin, amaranth stem, carrot, ash gourd, cucumber, green mango, potatoes, chenai/senai yam, sooran yam. It is not necessary to use them all – aim for about 7 or more different vegetables (approx 0.5 cup of each, 3 – 4 cups in total).
Note that Chenai Yam is also called Elephant Yam, Suran, Senai or Ratalu.
0.5 cup grated coconut
1 tspn cumin seeds
3 – 5 green chillies, or to taste
0.5 tspn rice
1 cup Indian or Greek yoghurt (use less if including green mango in the vegetable collection) mixed with 0.5 cup water and beaten well
1 Tblspn coconut oil (use organic raw coconut oil if possible)
the quantity of curd (yoghurt + water), salt and chillies can be adjust for the quantity of vegetables used.
preparing the vegetables
Colocasia: boil a few, peel, keep separate and add separately.
Chenai Yam (Elephant Yam): Prepare the Chenai Yam separately. Scrape the yam and cut into long bits and then cook.
Potatoes: Prepare potatoes separately. Cook potatoes in their jackets, peel off the skin and cut into four or five pieces. Add it last to the vegetables.
Potatoes can also be left raw, peeled and cubed, and then added to the other vegetables as they cook.
cooking the vegetables: Prepare the beans by scalding the slightly. Put in a saucepan, add water and bring to the boil. When it boils, add vegetables that take some time to cook – ash gourd, chow chow, etc). There is no need to completely cover the vegetables with water, as long as there is enough water to steam the vegetables well.
After a few minutes, add other vegetables one after another, ordered in the amount of time they take to cook. When the last vegetables are added, add 2 tspns salt and cover. While cooking, turn them once or twice to make sure all vegetables cook evenly. When all are cooked, pour out any water.
finishing the dish: Grind the coconut with cumin seeds, green chillies and rice until a paste is formed. Beat into the yoghurt, then mix the sauce with the vegetables. Mix well, gently, and bring to a simmer.
Remove from the heat, pour over the raw coconut oil, mix well, garnish with curry leaves, and serve.
recipe notes and alternatives
If preferred, heat the coconut oil and fry the curry leaves (they will splutter), and pour over the aviyal.
If not enough green mango and yoghurt is available, a little tamarind water can be added to the vegetables as they cook.
If preferred to make aviyal with just one vegetable, use plantains, plantain stem, amaranth stem, chow chow, or ash gourd. Amaranth leaves can be used too – cook the greens with a pinch of bicarb soda, mash well and proceed.
To make this into Moar Koottu, prepare the same way with any vegetable, and make a tadka with brown mustard seeds and black gram dal fried in coconut oil. Make your paste out of coconut, 2 – 3 Indian dried red chillies, 1tspn cumin seeds and 0.5 tspn toor dal.