Quick and easy with a flavorful aromatic punch pretty much sums up this string bean coconut stir-fry recipe from Chitra Agrawal’s new cookbook Vibrant India , read more here. Any dish with shredded coconut always makes my eyes shine. The chewy goodness sweetly balances the spicy flavor profile of this Karnatakan dish. Adding a layer of complexity to a fairly simple dish. The use of coconut is one of the things I appreciate most about cuisine from the Southern part of India. When I came across this recipe in Vibrant India, I knew it was one of the first ones I wanted to try.
I’ll admit I was feeling lazy about cutting the string beans into bite-size pieces. Probably because it took me back to my early days in the kitchen. When I was rookie working my way up to the stove. To get there, I first had to do all the cutting, peeling and separating jobs the more mature cooks no longer want to do. My least favorite was removing mint leaves one by one from what felt like a million stems. I prefer the multi-tasking stove job. Requiring strategizing and physical energy. Getting me into a therapeutic zone that feels present and meditative.
Grating, zesting and chopping have their therapeutic benefits too, but for some reason, I felt a resistance towards cutting the string beans into tiny pieces. Perhaps because it reminded of the same monotony I so loved about the mint leaf job. However, if there is a one thing I’ve learned cooking South Asian vegetable dishes, is that size and shape matter. The texture, spice to veggie ratio per bite and cook time are influenced by how the vegetables are cut. It’s sort of like making spaghetti using angel hair or penne. Even with the same sauce, it’s just not spaghetti.
I knew cutting the green beans in half or leaving them whole would have resulted in a different recipe. Which helped me find the extra 2 minutes it would take to cut the green beans into smaller pieces. For an entire dish that takes 20 minutes to make, it was worth finding the patience within myself. My intention was to make the dish as close to the final recipe as possible. And I was committed to doing so.
After all, the smaller pieces make it easier to eat the beans, whether using your hands, a fork or wrapping it in a chapati or topping it over a bowl of rice and dal. The smaller the pieces the less awkward they are to eat. The spice to bean ratio also makes for an authentic flavor profile. It is so worth it to cut those beans a few extra times! Happy cooking. Happy eating. Happy digesting.
Green Bean & Coconut Stir-Fry (Huralikayi Palya)
servings: 4 | time: 20 mins
Season: Summer, Fall
Tastes: Bitter, Pungent, Astringent, Sweet, Sour, Salty*
What you need: an 8-10 inch skillet
- 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (fresh or dried)
- 1 lb green (string) beans, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 3/4 tsp mineral-rich salt*
- 1 tsp huli or sambar powder*
Vaghaar/Taarka/Hot Oil Infusion:
- 1 T ghee, sunflower or coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
- pinch of hing aka asafoetida*
- 1/2 cinnamon stick*
- 4 or 5 curry leaves
- 1 dried red chili split
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1 T chopped cilantro
1.Soak dried coconut in a little bit of warm water to plump up and rehydrate. In the meantime, prep the green beans.
2.Have all the ingredients near the stove. Place the skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is very warm but not too hot, add 1 mustard seed. If the seed sizzles, add the remaining seeds and asafoetida (if needed). If the test seed pops out of the pan right away, let the oil cool down a bit and start over by testing another seed. The seeds should sizzle and then begin to crackle pop. Releasing their essential oils. Once all the seeds are in, keep a lid handy to cover if needed.
3.After more seeds start to crackle, lower the heat a bit. Then add the curry leaves, cinnamon stick and red chili. Cover to avoid the moisture from the leaves splattering. Give the mixture a couple stirs. Step 2 and 3 are quick. About a 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes.
4.Add the chopped green beans. Stir. Then add the turmeric powder and a couple tablespoons of water and salt (if needed). Mix well and cover for about 3-5 minutes. Until beans start to get tender.
5.Then add the sambar powder Stir. and cook for another 2 minutes to fuse in the spices and release the aroma.
6.Stir in the coconut, removing any excess water it has been soaking in and cook for another minute or 2. Or until beans are completely cooked.
7.Turn off the stove.Mix in the lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
- If using store-bought sambar powder like I did, most of them include hing and salt. I would recommend skipping this the steps listed.
- Since Chitra’s huli recipe, calls for a cinnamon stick, I added a small piece of a stick to the taarka/tempering step. The store-bought sambar powder did not include cinnamon.
- Huli powder is similar to sambar powder but is particular to the state of Karnataka. In her book, she recommends buying sambar powder as a substitute, since it is readily available at South Asian markets. She does include the recipe for huli in Vibrant India.