June 7, 2009

Aviyal (Mixed Vegetables in a Thick Spicy Coconut Sauce)

Aviyal is a spicy mixed vegetable preparation made with a spicy coconut paste, a souring agent and fresh coconut oil. This dish comes from the south Indian state of Kerala and no "sadya (traditional festive meal) is complete without it.
You will find aviyal, which is also very much a part of Palakkad Iyer cuisine and therefore a regular in my kitchen, featured on many food blogs featuring south Indian cuisine. My version has been sitting in my drafts for ages waiting to see the light of day. It took a request from a reader for me to remind me to post about it.

According to this source, aviyal was invented by Bheema (one of the five Pandava brothers) during their period of exile at the court of Virata. Bheema disguised himself as the palace cook, but was more proficient as a warrior than in the kitchen!
Since he didn't know much about cooking, he apparently chopped up a lot of different vegetables, cooked them and then added some coconut.
I personally have difficulty believing this version since aviyal is typical of Kerala which is a southern Indian state, whereas most of the Mahabharata seems to have unfolded towards the northern parts of India where aviyal is not a part of the cuisine.

A more believable source says that aviyal was first cooked in the royal kitchens of Travancore. Apparently, the head cook had to cook and serve a certain number of dishes. However, he discovered that he had run short of the necessary vegetables for a particular dish he had planned for. So in an inspired moment, he cut up small quantities of whatever vegetables he had on hand and cooked them up into an aviyal. This new vegetable creation became a favourite and the rest is history.

This version has the traditional/ "naadan" vegetables
I always thought aviyal was made the way it was made by my mother and grandmother, but over the years I have discovered there are variations apart from differences that arise from the vegetable combinations used.

This version has some "English" veggies too, like zucchini and potatoes!

Traditionally, a combination of different "naadan" (indigenous) vegetables like elephant yam (chenai), raw plantain (vazhaikkai), payar/ achingya (yard long beans, snake gourd (podavalangai), elavan/ kumbalanga (ash gourd/ winter melon), drumstick (murungakkai – a vegetable and not chicken!), jackfruit seeds (chakka kottai), etc are used. These are the vegetables are still used to make the authentic aviyal served at feasts.

This is an all "English" vegetable version except for the drumsticks

Many "English" vegetables (vegetables which not indigenous but common in our markets today) can also be used and are used these days, in homes (in mine definitely) to make aviyal. So you can make aviyal with green beans, carrot, potatoes, cabbage, green peas, etc. I have even used zucchini a couple of times in my aviyal!

In my home, the spicy coconut paste added to aviyal is made by grinding together freshly grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds. My husband's side of the family does not add cumin seeds while making aviyal.
In my side of the family, we use yogurt as the souring agent while making aviyal while my mother-in-law always used tamarind. Some people add raw mango pieces to the vegetables, instead of yogurt or tamarind.

Here I am posting the recipe I use while making aviyal. This version uses cumin seeds and yogurt. A mixture of about 4 to 5 different vegetables is optimum for a good aviyal, in my opinion.
Aviyal (Mixed Vegetables in a Thick Spicy Coconut Sauce)


3 cups (approx.) mixed vegetables, cut into 1 1/2" long pieces

1 cup slightly sour thick yogurt

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 a small coconut, grated

1 tsp cumin seeds

2-3 green chillies (or according to taste)

salt to taste

2 tbsp coconut oil

2 sprigs curry leaves


Grind the coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies into a fine paste. Keep aside. Whisk the yogurt till smooth and keep aside.
Cut the vegetables into pieces about 1 1/2 inches in length (like we cut potatoes for finger chips). Cook the vegetables with turmeric powder and half a cup water till soft but firm. I cook my vegetables in the microwave (without turmeric powder) at 100% for about 8 minutes.

Then I put the vegetables into a pan with 1/8th cup of water, curry leaves, salt and turmeric powder. When this comes to a boil, add the coconut paste and mix well. Turn down the heat and add the yogurt. Mix well.

When the mixture just starts to bubble, take off the heat. The aviyal will have very little liquid in it and the coconut paste-yogurt mixture should be thickly coating the vegetables. Pour the coconut oil and stir. Cover.

Serve hot with rice, sambhar, pappads and pickle. This recipe should serve about 4-5 people.
You can find another version of aviyal made with raw papaya here.


Divya Vikram said...

That looks like a very healthy n creamy dish! Havent tried aviyal myself! Looks too good!

Ria said...

Ooooo! I love avial! And yours look really yum! I love anything naadan! :)

Ria said...

Ooooo! I love avial! And yours look really yum! I love anything naadan! :)

Happy cook said...

Wow Aparna that was very informative. I neve rknew Bhima invented the avial dish , well that was something i enjoyed knowing, now next time when i eat avail i can imagine Bhima preparing this :-)
Avial looks so yumm. Reminds me of Onam :-)

Sunshinemom said...

Bhima of all the people!

I use all the veggies you mentioned but zucchini. Anyways I love it - developed a vegan version that tastes the same, and yours reminds me that I should make it soon!

Parita said...

The dish looks rich and creamy and very simple to make to..reminds me that i must try this soon.

Sharmila said...

Bhima?! Always love aviyal. :-)

sra said...

I've had both the curd and the tamarind versions. In fact, our canteen turns out a good avial!

As for Bheema, if you put history and probability aside, all the mythological characters were present in all parts of the country on some assignment or the other - we always come across places where someone did penance, lived in exile, passed through. There's a place called Bhadrachalam in AP where Sita's bark clothes are still drying on some fence!!!

yasmeen said...

Tasty avial,looks like a veggelicious Khorma,the sour yogurt must be give this a nice tang:)

Suparna said...

hi aparna,
Interesting read as always :)
Ya,logically it's difficult to agree upon the fact that Bhima invented the recipe for aviyal ;)
The second fact is phir bhi ok :)
I love kerala recipes for the coconut based dishes, all the dishes are so flavourful and aromatic.
When I was looking for avial recipe...I was quite surprised by the variations to this dish. Neways I love this dish so dearly for all the vegetables that goes into this dish :)wouldn't mind trying each of the variation to the authentic one :)
About the souring agent...hadn't heard of using tamarind in aviyal :)
Pics are beautiful as always. The first pic of aviyal is making me hungry ;)
Enjoy the Sunday!
All the best for this academic year to ur daughter as school reopens from tomorrow :)

Lisa said...

Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe. This is an ideal dish to use up any extra veggies on hand.

Cilantro said...

Lovely Avial. It tastes great with sambhar and papadam. Good info too.

anudivya said...

I kind of like to add new veggies to the regular aviyal too, the purists may frown upon us, but really, who cares. Variations are the essence of cooking.

maybelle's mom said...

I have always felt an affinity for Bheema and now I know why. I have never made avial, but love to eat it. And, do I wish that I could get fresh drumsticks.

Mallugirl said...

i make it ur way but like the tamarind version too. nice story abt the Travancore king. Is that for real?

Nags said...

its been ages since i made or had aviyal!

Priya said...

Reading through your recipe reminds me of my mom and her cooking...I miss home. but thanks! I will try this soon.

Aparna said...

I'm not much of an avial lover myself (surprising, I know) but I haven't met another person who's had it and doesn't like it, other than my daughter!

Would love to see your vegan version, Harini.

You're right I guess.
My dad used to tell us of the story (about 20 years ago) of the Gopis' clothes, stolen by Krishna while they were bathing, hanging on a tree in Mathura! Didn't know they had chiffons way back then and am not sure that story's still being told today. :)

Yasmeen, the yogurt gives it a very faint tang which is ont very noticable but enhances the overall taste.

Thanks, Suparna. Yes, she's off to school.

Yes, it does Cilantro. :)

You said it, Anu! :D

Maybelle's mom, you should try it. Drumsticks do lend aviyal its characteristic taste, but don't let the absence of drumsticks prevent you from making it.

The story is from the Aidhihyamaala (if I am correct) and that's what it says. Of course, I'm not sure how authentic the story is or if it can be proved but it certainly sounds more plausible that the one about Bhima inventing aviyal. :)

Asha said...

Yummy Avial, Latha made this for me when I was in B'lore! :)

I just checked your comment. Yes, it's so true! Bangalore has become a concrete jungle and very unhealthy, specially around downtown. I see people who can afford are moving further away from the city to build houses and still get crowed after few years.I was very unfamiliar with my own city and was scared to travel alone, fearing that I can't find my way back home! :D
Mysore hasn't changed much as I was expecting it to be like B'lore but it wasn't and enjoyed all the sights in a day trip we took, my aunt lives there.
Next time I come there, I might travel to Goa to see you! ;)

Have a great Summer, see you in Fall. I am still not 100% healthwise but getting there slowly. Trisha graduated last Saturday, we are so proud!

Kitchen Flavours said...

Oh wow coconut milk and vegetables....looks completely drool worthy....

Red Chillies said...

Interesting read about Aviyal with regards to Bheema,Travancore etc.
We make something similar called Majjige Huli, but it is not this thick and does not use coconut oil seasoning.

Curry Leaf said...

Wow,thats informative.I too add cumin and curds in my version -mine is same as you.looks inviting

Dhanggit said...

I love this with white rice :-) Delicious!! As always pictures are magnificent!

Anonymous said...

Here are some photos of Trisha's graduation, I uploaded a few quickly! :)



Aparna said...

Bangalore can be scary, Asha. It is very crowded and nothing like the city I remember from my childhood. Mysore is indeed better. :)

The change in climate, food and water would have taken its toll. Take care, enjoy the rest of your vacation and see you when you get back. :)

Just saw the graduation pics. How does feel to have grown up kids? :)

Supriya, I think "majjige" is yogurt and "huli" is sour/ tamarind? That sounds like our "morkootan" which has a gravy too.

Thanks Lubna, Sweatha and Dhanggit.

Ben said...

I'll try anything that has spicy and coconut in the title, and looks creamy and delicious :)

Barbara said...

Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe with its interesting background, Aparna. I will have to try it — I love spicy-coconut flavors.

Kalai said...

Nice to know the history about Aviyal.I always wonder who invented the combination with adai.Personally I love aviyal with rice not with adai.Pic looks Delicious.

jayasri said...

hi aparna, first of all excellent photos.., just makes u fell like having it immediately!, next I really do not know how this was invented or who invented but bless them it's a super delicious dish! which i love, and i make it the way ur mom makes it just coconut, cumin & green chillies and seasoning with coconut oil! i have never tried with other ways may be sometime i will try them,,,,,

Pavithra said...

Oh wow thats my fav..i can eat the whole bowl if u send it..looking so yumm and perfect

Kalai said...

Exactly how my mother makes aviyal. One of my favorites! Lovely dish! :)

Justine said...

i love vegetable and this sauce sounds amazing on them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Aparna....this dish sure looks and sounds tempting. I'm a Kannadiga from north Karnataka...very much a vegan. And I love trying out different cuisines. I shall definitely try this one out. Thanks. :)