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!