Papaya Avial Kootan - Raw Papaya in a Coconut Gravy
This is really nothing but an Avial made with papaya. The "Kootan" signifies that this dish has a gravy and is to be served as a main accompaniment along with rice.
An “Aviyal” is a popular preparation from Kerala where a medley of vegetables such as elavan (ashgourd), raw plantain, elephant yam, drumstick (not from chicken, but a vegetable), egg plant, etc. are cooked together with a spiced coconut paste and yogurt.
I don’t like raw plantain or elephant yam so I sometimes make an Aviyal using carrots, cabbage, french beans, potato, and green peas. I love my version but I guess no true Malayali (a person from Kerala) would recognize it as an Aviyal.
This is another version of the traditional Aviyal and unusual in that it is made only with papaya and no other vegetable. Avial is a dry vegetable preparation with no gravy. My version has been adapted to be made with a gravy and hence the “Kootan” after the Avial in the title.
The Avial Kootan (in traditional vegetable variation) is a staple in my mother-in-law’s kitchen. Using a papaya that is in the very early stages of ripening gives an interesting taste to the Aviyal. A papaya at this stage would still be deep green on the outside but with very faint and small patches of whitish-yellowness. When cut the inside would have a faint pinkish tinge. I have a couple of papaya trees next door and could choose the one I wanted!
- Grind the coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies into a fine paste. Keep aside. Whisk the yogurt till smooth and keep aside.
- Peel the papaya, remove seeds and cut into pieces about 1 ½ inches in length (like we cut potatoes for finger chips).
- Cook the papaya with turmeric powder and salt and half a cup water till soft but firm. I cook the papaya in the microwave (without turmeric powder or salt) at 100% for about 8 minutes. Then I put the papaya into a pan with ¾ 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 boil, take off the heat. Pour the coconut oil and stir. Cover.
- Serve hot with rice, pappads and pickle.
If you wish, this can prepared without the gravy. In that case, do not add the ¾ cup of water but just a couple of tbsps. This is not a traditional Palakkad Iyer preparation in the true sense because of the papaya but I am including it as one.