Avial comes from Kerala, the state located on the western coastline of India, historically known as the Malabar coast. A vegetarian dish, it is made of a mixture of vegetables with coconut, green chilies and yogurt. It is an essential part of ‘Sadya’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadya) the traditional feast served for festivals and celebrations.
Origin stories variously credit mythological characters Bhima or Ganesha for coming up with the dish.
What I like most about avial is that it is so versatile; it can be made out of any mix of vegetables as long as they are not too soft or wilty. Root vegetables – potatoes, yams, taro – work well in the mix. So do some of the gourds like ash gourd and snake gourd. Though traditionally not included in the mix, carrots and red peppers add color to the mix.
Some versions even add bitter gourd, which of course gives the whole avial a slight bitter flavor liked by many.
Vegetables are cut into uniform sized long pieces and added to the pot based on their cooking time. For example, if you have included any of the yams or taros in your mix, they should be allowed to cook half way through before the rest of the vegetables are added.
Curry leaves are the signature ingredient that gives avial its unique flavor.
Crushed along with freshly grated coconut, green chilies and cumin, the spice blend is so fragrant.
And the final touch is a spoonful of coconut oil drizzled over the dish.
Though the traditional Avial is made with a mix of vegetables, you can try this dish with a single vegetable. A favorite one to try will be potato avial. Also, egg avial, made with boiled eggs, can be so yummy!
A is for Avial
- Cook the vegetables in a largish pot, adding them to the pot in batches based on the time they will take to be done. Add the turmeric powder, if using.
- Coarsely crush the coconut, green chilies, cumin and curry leaves.
- When the vegetables are almost done, add half cup of yogurt and salt to taste. Mix well.
Continue to cook.
- Mix the remaining yogurt with the crushed coconut blend.
- When the excess water is cooked off and the vegetables are almost dry, add the yogurt-coconut blend. Gently mix together taking care not to break up the vegetables too much.
- Turn off the heat and drizzle the coconut oil over the top.
Serve with cooked rice.