Saturday, April 5, 2014

Mochai Kathrikkai kara kuzhambu - Field Beans and Brinjals Spicy Gravy

I hail from the Kongu region of Tamilnadu and know the food culture of the place better than those of other regions of Tamilnadu. There is one place that I also spent quite a bit of time - Madurai. Was born there and spent the first few years of life in that ancient city. Though I don't know much about the food culture of the area, there are a few things that I still remember. My love of seafood and non-veg came from living there introduced by my loving neighbor peiamma. My mom came from a pure vegetarian family so I doubt she had much to do with it. While I do not remember much else about the food I remember fresh green mochai. They were available in abundance there and was all over the markets during January in time for Pongal (harvest festival). The field beans plant is generally a cold season plant and its peak is during the January months.

Dried mochai beans (Field Beans in English, Val in Hindi)

Those who are used to the cold season elsewhere shouldn't take the cold season from my home state (I meant the Indian home state) too seriously. The temperatures are a pleasant 70-75F during the day and not lower than 68F during the nights unless it is near the mountains where the temperature might be a little colder than that. Anyway when I lived there I did not so much as own a sweater. But the summer months are something else altogether.

Though Avrakkai or hyacinth beans pods look very similar they are not same.

Fresh Avrakkai and seeds

Anyway I don't remember fresh mochai in the Kongu region that much. I could be wrong. The mochai that I remember from there were the dried ones. Pachai mochai or fresh field beans were not that common. Tough luck, these are my favorite kind of beans by far. They have a big time flatulent property, the dried ones at least so adding a lot of ginger helps.

These field beans or val beans are also popular in the Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Here in the US it is only in the last few years that I have been able to get them readily in the Indian stores (as Val Beans).

Keep the vegetables chopped and ready. Heat a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add the seasonings.
Saute the onions and garlic, followed by the brinjals and saute till the brinjals start to brown.
Add the powders and mix them in. Add in the cooked mochai beans.
Get the ingredients for the masala ready, sauteed and cooled. Add in the tamarind pulp to the brinjals and mochai.
Add in the blended masala paste, salt and water if required and let it boil in medium heat for about 10 minutes. The gravy should be done at this point.

My most favorite way of cooking these beans are as a kara kuzhambu pairing them with brinjals. The recipe below can be used with any beans, drumsticks, whole brinjals and okra (fry the okra before dropping into the gravy).

Mochai Kathrikkai Kara Kuzhambu - Field Beans and Brinjals Spicy Gravy
Preparation Time:15 minutes + overnight soaking for the dried mochai
Cooking Time:25-30 minutes
  1. 1 cup of dried mochai - soak overnight or 1 1/2 cups of fresh mochai
  2. 6-8 small size purple brinjals slit into 4 (you can keep the stem intact and brinjal slit but still whole)
  3. 6 cloves of garlic, whole or slit in half if too big
  4. 4 - 6 shallots diced 1/2 cup (or small onions)
  5. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  6. 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  7. 1 tbsp red chili powder or to taste
  8. seasonings - urad dal, few fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
  9. salt to taste
  10. 2 tsp of oil
  11. 1 cup of water tamarind pulp from about a small lime size tamarind or 1/2 tbsp of tamarind paste dissolved in 1 cup of water
  12. 1 tsp jaggery
  13. For the masala
  14. 1/2 cup of roughly chopped onions or shallots
  15. 1 tomato chopped
  16. 1 inch piece of ginger
  17. 4 red chillies
  18. 1/2 cup of grated coconut fresh (or frozen)

  1. Pressure cook the mochai (if using dried beans) till soft.
  2. In the meantime get the masala ready, heat oil in a pan and when hot add the onions and ginger and saute till the onions become translucent.
  3. Add the red chilies and saute for a minute, followed by the coconut and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Cool and blend to a fairly smooth paste. Set aside.
  5. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add the seasonings, urad dal first, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and when they pop, add the curry leaves.
  6. Add in the chopped shallots, garlic and saute till they become translucent.
  7. Now add in the chopped brinjals. Saute till they start to get brown spots.
  8. Now add all the powders - coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder and mix it in.
  9. Add the cooked mochai beans.
  10. Add the tamarind pulp and about 1 - 1 1/2 cup of water and let them cook till the brinjals are starting to get soft.
  11. At this point add the blended paste and salt (and more water depending on how loose you want the gravy to be, I like it a bit thick so did not add).
  12. Let it boil on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Check for salt and turn off the heat. If you like the taste add a 1 tsp of jaggery.

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  1. I have never added any beans to aloo baingan! Love that addition of coconut to the masala.

  2. One of our family favourite kuzhambu, love to add the coconut paste but sometimes i dont do..

  3. I adore kuzhambus like this... looks so delicious.

  4. I preparedthis today for dinner and came out very well and tastes too good


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