Avarakaalu sambar (a green bean variety)

The avarekaalu (a green bean) is great favourite in Karnataka in the winter months. Come avarekaalu season and households are eating everything avarekaalu. If breakfast is avarekaalu upma, lunch is avarekaalu sambar. A snack? Avarekaalu kodbele (a fried snack), or just fried and spiced avarekaalu. Breakfast the next day… sigh, avarekaalu sundal as a side (a boiled and seasoned delight).

When I was growing up in Bengaluru, by the time December was through, I’d have enough of it for three seasons to come! But like many things, the heart (and palate) grows fonder of the things we used to scoff at as kids, and now I don’t mind all of these each day in a week!

Here’s the avarekaalu sambar. Served with hot white rice and papad, it’s a perfect traditional meal.

The homework behind the beans:

avarekaaluYou can buy shelled beans or beans in their pods. Shelling the beans is some work, so you could buy the shelled variety by the kilo in most vegetable markets. You’ll see that the shelled beans include some very tender ones and some slightly ripened beans. Separate the two. in a batch of 300-400 grams of beans, you should get about 1/2 a cup of older beans, slightly more yellow in colour and larger in size. And a full cup of tender beans, greener and smaller.

The reason for separating the two is, you can boil and mash the riper beans to mix in with the masala. It gives the sambar a nice thickness. And use the tender ones as is in the sambar.

So let’s get on with it! You need:

  • Avarekallu beans: 1/2 cup slightly riper (older beans), 1 cup tender beans
  • Tamarind paste or fresh tamarind, squeezed – a tablespoon
  • 2 cups of water
  • Salt to taste

sambar_masalaFor the masala:

– 1/2 cup beans (a little more or less is OK), boiled in the pressure cooker

– 1 teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)

– 1 teaspoon black pepper, whole

– 1/2 cup fresh coconut, grated

– Few sprigs of coriander leaves

– 1 medium  tomato, chopped

– 1 small onion, chopped

– 1 tablespoon sambar powder. If you don’t have this, use a teaspoon of red chilli powder and 2 teaspoons of coriander (dhania powder)

– A pinch of turmeric powder

Making the sambar:

  • First, pressure cook both the ripe and tender beans till they are soft, in separate containers. My cooker takes about 20 minutes to do this.
  • Grind all the masala ingredients in a blender, using a little water.
  • In a vessel, mix in the masala, the cooked tender beans, salt, turmeric and tamarind paste.
  • Bring to a simmer on low heat. Add 2 cups of water and continue to simmer for a few minutes. If the sambar is too thick, add some more water.
  • About 10 minutes on simmer and the sambar is done. Sprinkle some more chopped coriander leaves if you like, on top.

the meal

The simple meal here typically has hot rice, sambar, some pickle, any vegetable, and papads.

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10 Responses to “Avarakaalu sambar (a green bean variety)”

  1. manju says:

    It’s more than ‘favorite’. Pradeep told me this story about how Bangalore got its name and the avarekaaLu features in the story prominently.

    Some raja, I forgot his name – was lost in the wilderness and was very hungry. He reached a hutment/village where an old woman took pity on him and cooked avarekaaLu for him. He named the place ‘bendekaaLuru’. Which means the land of the cooked kaaLu – which later got shortened to Bengaluru – which the British couldn’t pronounce and changed to Bangalore :)

    We are back to bengaluru now! Next round, maybe we can change it back to ‘bendekaaLuru’. Full circle. :)

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  2. Anu says:

    Manj, u got the story right. It’s “..’bendha’kaalu uru”, where bendha = cooked :).

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  3. Sharmila says:

    I sure do hope we are not going back to bendhakaaluuru… 😉

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  4. Purnima says:

    the speciality at my in-laws is the hitikki bele huli (we have to make life complicated, can’t be simple, right?). the same bele shelled futher!! i mean deskinned. to do this you soak the beans overnight sometimes even 24 hrs and when the beans are soaked thoroughly you can just slip the bean from its cover! we also do not use onions and we use some more spices. maybe i’ll just write up the recipe one of these days & post it here. did you make this recently anu? are avarekalus here already?? we are still in august!! avarekalu season is a long way off!!

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  5. Purnima says:

    looks awesome!! mouth’s watering!!

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  6. Kavitha says:

    U got my salivary and gastric glands working overtime !!!

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  7. Anu says:

    Purni, i know what you’re talking about! We make a tovve (dal) with that. Yes please to send recipe soooooon!

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  8. Anu says:

    Kavitha, any chance, even slim, of getting avarekaalu in Boston? Or am I behind the times and it’s available at the local store ;-)?

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  9. Anu says:

    Oh, and Purni, you get it even in July these days, though the produce isn’t all that great as it should be! That ‘sogudu’ (smell of the beans on your hands when you shell them) is not so strong. What with farmers growing everything all seasons these days…

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  10. manju says:

    OK Bendhakaaluru! Blame it on my Dilli upbringing :) Always say d for dh. So unless I am saying something like ‘dhak dhak’ no H for me! LOL

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