Kothavarangai, gawar phalli or cluster beans is a vegetable which I was introduced to only after my marriage. Till then, though I used to see them in the markets, I had never tasted it. People visiting Kaashi, for the first time, to perform the ancestral rites, have to abstain from eating one leaf, one fruit and one vegetable for the rest of their lives. This is called as Phalapatra Tyagam. The leaf is common to all, i.e. the banyan leaf. The fruit has to be something other than the mango, banana and jackfruit and any vegetable. It happens that both my grandparents and parents, decided to abstain from cluster beans and hence the vegetable never entered our house. (I’m not sure which fruit was abandoned) It was only after my marriage that I had it for the first time and it is my husband’s favourite. At first I did not quite like its taste as it has a slight bitterness to it. But when made in this usili form mixed with lentils, it does taste good.
Paruppu Usili is a dry vegetable and lentil based preparation, served as an accompaniment to plain rice and Sambar or Rasam. The vegetables commonly used with the lentils are Beans, Broad Beans, Banana Blossom, Cabbage and Cluster Beans. There are numerous ways of preparing this dish. Some people prepare using only tuar dal some with only channa dal. Some like a mix of both.
Serves - 3 to 4
What you’ll need
- Kothavarangai/Cluster Beans – 200 gms
- Tuar Dal – 2 tbsp
- Channa Dal – 2 tbsp
- Dried Red Chilli – 2 (adjust according to taste)
- Asafoetida – 2 pinches
- Turmeric Powder – ¼ tsp
- Salt to taste
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
- Urad Dal – 1 tsp
- Curry Leaves – few sprigs
- Wash and soak the dals along with the red chilli, for 20 minutes to half an hour.
- Drain the water completely from the dals and grind coarsely with chilli, asafoetida and salt. Do not add any water while grinding.
- Grease an idli stand, take a little of the ground dal and pat it on one of the idli grooves. Repeat till the ground dal is over.
- Steam this in a cooker for 6 to 7 minutes, or till a knife inserted comes out clean.
- Cool, remove from the mould and pulse in a mixer till the dal resembles a coarse powder.
- Wash the cluster beans, string them and chop finely.
- Pressure cook the chopped beans for 3 whistles. Remove from the cooker after the steam releases.
- Heat a Kadai with oil. Season with mustard seeds, once they start popping add the urad dal. Once the dal turns golden brown, add the cooked beans.
- Add turmeric powder and salt to taste. Stir and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or till all the water is evaporated.
- Now add the steamed powdered dal and mix very well. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes and remove from heat.
Healthy and delicious usili is ready. Serve as an accompaniment with rice and Sambar or Rasam.
Make sure the vegetable is completely dry before adding the powdered dal mixture else the curry would become very mushy.