Hyacinth Beans or vaal are very popular in Western and Southern states of India. Commonly called ‘Avarekaalu’ in Kannada and Vaal in Marathi and Gujarati, these beans have a unique, pleasantly bitter taste. There are numerous popular recipes using this bean, found across the region.
The beans need to be soaked, sprouted and peeled. But I usually take the shortcut and but ready sprouted and peeled vaal.
These are very popular in Pathare Prabhu homes for our customary ‘vegetarian Monday’. The rich meaty taste more than makes up for the absence of meat or fish.
These are cooked in gravy form exactly like fish bhujane and taste fantastic with steaming white rice.
In a flat thick bottomed vessel, crush together a finely chopped onion, 1 tbsp chopped coriander, a tsp of crushed garlic, 1 tsp red chilli powder, ½ tsp turmeric powder and a chopped chilli, salt to taste and approximately 1 tbsp oil.
Crush these by hand till the ingredients mix and come together really well. This needs to be done with a lot of patience and takes a good 6-7 minutes.
The vessel I’m using is an heirloom brass ‘Langdi’ which needs to be tinned (Kalhai) every now and then. But the maintenance requirements are more than made up for by the uniform even cooking when one uses these.
Now tip in soaked and sprouted vaal beans and coat well in masala. Add around ½ cup water, enough to submerge the vaal along with the crushed masala.
Once you’ve mixed the vaal with the masala, these should not be stirred with a spoon till they’re completely cooked. The vessel can be tipped from side to side to achieve any mixing if required. Bring the mix to a rolling boil.
Cover with a lid and pie some water over the lid. Simmer over a medium – low heat till the beans are completely cooked. Ideally, the bean should hold shape with the sprout still clinging to the bean after cooking. If these get overcooked, they taste mushy and honestly not very pleasant.
This is a quick fix with the whole dish taking no more than 20 minutes to make from scratch (provided you have access to peeled vaal sprouts).
Serve with steaming white rice or chapatis. Perfect for a rainy day.