An Usili is a dry vegetable preparation that belongs to the South Indian state of Tamilnadu. When they moved from Tamilnadu and settled down in Kerala, the Palakkad Iyer community brought their cuisine with them. Usili is a dry no gravy vegetable side dish that is made generally from one or two of the following vegetables -beans, cluster beans, broad beans, carrot or cabbage and red gram lentils (tuvar dal). The lentils are soaked, drained well and ground with chillies and asafetida but no liquid. This is then steam cooked, cooled and crumbled and then cooked with the vegetable of choice.
An Usili is a very nutritious combination of vegetable and protein-rich dal (lentils). The word “Parippu” in Tamil means lentils. Though it takes a little effort and time to cook this recipe, it is well worth it. My recipe uses the combination of French beans and lentils, hence the Beans Parippu Usili.
The hallmark of an Usili is firm but well cooked vegetables and the crumbled lentils being slow cooked over a steady heat so that some part of it becomes golden brown and crunchy. This is a dish that requires a fair bit of oil to achieve the crunchy texture which is perhaps why it is a dish that is cooked not as often as others are.
This dish is best served as a side dish with rice and a non-lentil based gravy main dish like yogurt based Pulisseri or Morkuzhambu, an Araitchukalakki or even a dish like Rasam which uses a smaller amount of lentils.
Beans Parippu Usili - Stir-fried Green Beans & Spiced Lentils
- 1/4 kg French beans
- 1 cup red gram lentils/ tuvar dal
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp asafetida powder
- 2 red chillies
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- to taste salt
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 2 tsps urad dal
- 4 to 5 tbsps oil
- Soak the tuvar dal for about an hour and drain well. Grind the dal, turmeric and asafetida powders, red chillies, curry leaves and salt into a paste without adding water.
- Make small patties and steam cook (in an idli stand) for about 10 minutes. Or pat the paste flat onto a plate and steam cook. Cool slightly and crumble by hand. If the steam cooked batter is too hard to crumble easily( this happens sometimes if it cools down), use a grater.
- String, chop the beans into small pieces and cook with a little salt till well done but firm. I prefer to do this in the microwave.
- Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the urad dal. When this browns, add the cooked beans. Stir a couple of times and add the crumbled dal. Mix and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, till the dal starts becoming crisp. The Usili is ready to serve.