This Avarakkai Poduthuval/ Thoran or Green Hyacinth Beans is representative of cooking certain vegetables representative in our traditional Palakkad Iyer style. A poduthuval (Palakkad Iyer Tamil) or Thoran (Malayalam) is a dry vegetable side dish. The diced or sliced vegetable is stir-fried, South Indian style, and finished with a sprinkling of fresh coconut. Kerala style Thorans sometimes are made with onions and garlic too. We are a community that traditionally eats neither so out Poduthuval/ Thorans are made without them.
Poduthuval/ Thoran is generally made with certain kinds of vegetables like variety of beans, carrots, cabbage, jackfruit, pumpkin, amaranth greens, banana blossoms or flowers, snake gourd, etc., to mention a few. I make some kind of Poduthuval/ Thoran at least 3 days a week as a side for lunch. Certain vegetable combinations like cabbage and French beans, carrots and French beans, cabbage and carrots, cabbage and green peas also lend themselves well to making this recipe.
I read somewhere that the origin of the name “poduthuval” comes from “podi” (meaning powder, of the spicy kind) and “thuval” (meaning to sprinkle). In Tamilnadu, there is a type of vegetable preparation where a coarse spice and lentil powder is sprinkled to finish the dish. It is possible that that has been adapted to use coconut instead, using the plentiful supply of coconuts in Kerala. Possibly, the original name remained but the recipe changed a bit over time.
This Avarakkai Poduthuval/ Thoran or Green Hyacinth Beans and others like this, can also be made two ways. One is to finish the dish with just a sprinkling of fresh grated coconut which is mixed in before serving. The other is to use a crushed coarse mix of fresh grated coconut and green chillies to finish it. Both taste good, but my preference is for the second method. Crushing the coconut releases a little of the coconut milk which gives the Poduthuval/ Thoran a different taste entirely. If using the first method, just slit a couple of green chillies lengthwise and add it along with the beans while cooking.
Poduthuval/ Thoran can also made without the final addition of coconut. Certain vegetables, especially hyacinth beans (avarakkai) and cluster beans (kothavarakkai), which have a faintly bitter or strong flavour are best cooked with coconut. Avarakkai or Hyacinth Beans are also known as Lablab beans. There are different varieties of Hyacinth beans and the one commonly found in our markets are green or very deep green. They’re also known as “Sem” in Hindi and “Vaalpapdi” in Goa.
Avarakkai Poduthuval/ Thoran or Green Hyacinth Beans
- 1/4 kg Hyacinth beans (Avarakkai)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- to taste salt
- 2 tbsps fresh grated coconut
- 2 green chillies
- 1 1/2 tsps coconut oil or oil of choice
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 1/2 tsps black gram lentils (urad dal)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- Wash the beans, and string them. Trim off both ends of each bean and then finely chop the beans. If there any beans which are a bit mature, shell them and discard the pods.
- If you are using the microwave to cook your vegetables, like I do, then cook the beans till they're done. And then proceed as described below.
- In a pan, heat the oil (coconut oil gives an authentic flavour and taste) and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the black gram lentils and sautxe9 till they brown. Now add the curry leaves, stir once and add the beans. Stir fry the beans for a couple of minutes, then add half a cup of water. Add the salt and turmeric powder and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the beans to cook till done and the water has evaporated completely.
- If you microwaved your beans, then add the beans where mentioned above. Just don't add the water for cooking. Sprinkle a handful of water, add the turmeric powder and salt and make sure the beans are well coated and seasoned and sautxe9 till the little water there was has evaporated completely. Take the cooked beans off the heat.
- Now run the grated coconut and the green chillies in the jar of your mixer grinder, a couple of times, without adding any water. You will have crushed mixture of the coconut and chillies, with flecks of the green chillies showing. Do not grind to a paste.
- This crushing releases the flavours/ juice in the coconut and the chillies. Add this to the beans and stir well to mix.
- Serve warm with rice, a vegetable in gravy preparation like sambhar, rasam or pulissery.