Avial !    It is epic , literally !!! . Avail is not just a popular dish of Kerala and Tamil Nadu,  for me  it is a connect to my roots , culture and lifestyle . Avial has its origin in mythology and other historical   references in Sangam poems of the seventh century.  Avial  as a dish represents the profoundness of simplicity .Avial is also a mash up of many  seasonal vegetables cooked in a simple coconut gravy .

Mythology says that Avial was first made by The great Pandava  Bhima during the time of their exile.

During the time of exile The great Pandava,  Bhim lived in the disguise of a cook ‘’Ballav’’ in the kitchen of The King of Virata. The folklore is that one day on the arrival of a lot of guests , Bhima chopped up whatever vegetables were available and made a grant dish , which was to be known as Avial. Another tale is that since Bhima didn’t know cooking he chopped up a lot of vegetables and made a dish called Avial.  It is said that the descendants of Virata Kingdom brought back this secret recipe to Kerala. Definitely sounds like a foodie’s folklore !

Avial also finds its mention in Aithihyamala (Garland Of Legends ) a  collection of century old stories about people and events from Kerala written by Kottarathil Sankunni , a renowned Sanskrit-Malayalam scholar who lived in the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century in Kerala.  According to Kottarathil Sankunny , Avial originated in the kitchens of a Travancore Maharaja during this period.

Stories apart I know Avial as a dish made by my Grand Ma almost daily.  She made different versions of Avial. Her favourite avial was Jack fruit avial.   Jackfruit was on the menu almost every day due to its abundance.    I secretly feared eating Jackfruit dishes daily would somehow dampen the growth of my intelligence. So I resisted eating avial as much as I could. But I cherished the crispy golden Jackfruit chips all the while.  My only relief was Jackfruit was seasonal  and it was not available all through the year.    But quite contrary to my  belief  I was actually consuming an exotic fruit packed with proteins ,vitamins , fiber , minerals and antioxidants during my child hood days.

Here I am  recollecting this signature recipe of Chakka Avial  which came to me through the blessings of three  generations , Ammomma, my Grand ma , and my Mother. The flavour of this avial is deeply rooted in my psyche and it is quite nostalgic . Each and every part of jack fruit except the thorns on the base and the fibrous ‘’chakini’’went into the making of  this avial. On special days granny would spent one rupee and buy  one or two  drumsticks, a piece of snake gourd and a raw mango to enhance the flavour of Chakka Avial  making it a luxurious treat.

 

Chakka avial ( Jack fruit Avial }
Ingredients (makes for  5 to 6 servings )
A quarter piece of jack fruit cleaned and seeds removed. Cut into long thin slices.

Handful jack fruit seeds   cleaned and sliced into four  long pieces.

250 gm snake gourd sliced to 2 inch pieces

One raw mango sliced into thin pieces

Two drumsticks sliced to 2 inch pieces

One two small pieces of jack fruit base (the fleshy coat with the thorns removed) sliced into 2 inch pieces.

2 cups grated coconut

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 to 3   red chillies

1 tsp cumin seeds

2  garlic cloves

2 tsp coconut oil

2 tsp  yoghurt

1 tsp coconut oil

Salt to taste

Few sprigs of curry leaves.

Grand Ma used a’’ Kal chatti’’ (stone pan)  for this preparation. We can use a thick bottomed kadai in the place of a stone pan.  First the jackfruit seeds and the fleshy base would go into the pan for cooking as they take more time to cook. Two cups of water,  turmeric and salt is added to this mixture. When the seeds are cooked and became soft other ingredients are added. The pan is covered with a plantain leaf and avial is cooked on a slow wood fire.

The grated coconut, red chillies , cumin seeds and garlic  and few sprigs of curry leaves are placed on the stone  grinder and ground to a coarse  paste without adding any water.  Grand ma always added a glassful of water to clean  the stone grinder of  any  traces of ground masala and added this spiced up water also  to the avial mixture. The coconut paste is now added to the boiling vegetables and mixed well. Once again it is covered and allowed to cook on a slow flame for another ten minutes. Slow cooking preserves the flavour and aroma of the ingredients. Now the vegetables are well cooked and blended with the gravy. At this stage two table spoons of thick yoghurt is added and mixed well. Add another spoonful of fresh coconut oil and a few sprigs of curry leaves for seasoning.  Avial is ready for serving. Avial is very subtle in flavour and this dish can be paired with any other dish of your choice and steamed rice. My favourite combination is avial with steamed rice ,yoghurt, pickle and papad.

So while that was granny’s avial let me take you to the present day Avial I make at home.

 

AVIAL ( Traditional )
This  is a dish made from a large variety of fresh and crispy vegetables in a coconut based gravy.The vegetables are  Yam (Elephant foot ) , raw banana, snake gourd, long beans, cluster beans, ash gourd, yellow striped cucumber , drumsticks, brinjals, carrot, raw mango and green chillies . Let us see the recipe of this version of Avial also.

Ingredients
(Makes for 5 to 6 servings)

200 gms yam

1 drumstick

1 raw banana

200 gm snake gourd

Handful long beans

100 gm cluster beans

100 gm ash gourd

200 gm cucumber(Vellarikka)

2 long  green brinjals

1 carrot

1 medium sized raw mango

6 to 8 green chilies

Plenty of curry leaves

1 ½ tsp turmeric powder

¼ tsp Kashmiri chili powder

2 cups grated coconut

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp yoghurt

1 tsp coconut oil

METHOD
Wash , clean  and slice all vegetables into thick two inch long pieces. Keep them in a thick bottomed kadai or pan with 1 cup of water. Add turmeric, chilli powder ,curry leaves and salt. Cook on a slow flame with lid on. Stir the ingredients in between , if water reduces you can add some more water.

Grate coconut and cumin into a coarse paste with ¼ cup water. Add the coconut paste once the veggies are cooked. Stir and blend well. Cook for another five minutes. Add yogurt and coconut oil. Stir and blend once again. Avial is ready for serving.

For my vegan friends , there is a small secret tip.

You can convert the entire recipe into a Vegan delight just by removing yogurt and adding 1 tsp of thick tamarind pulp into the recipe.

References:

The Mahabharata

Aithihyamala by Kottarathil Sankunny

 

 

 

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