Avrekaalu or Hyacinth beans is packaged and sold by its Gujarati name of Surti Papdi Lilva in the US and is available in the freezer section of Indian stores. The bean in its pod is called Avrekai and features in several dishes in Karnataka. Growing up in Bangalore, avrekaalu used to be available in abundance during the winter months. I remember my mom making different kinds of curries with these beans. I also remember her making upma using these beans though at that time, I was not very fond of any form of upma. If you’ve never had upma before, the closest description that I can come up with is a spicy porridge that is eaten at breakfast. My mom got this recipe from our landlady who used to send over fresh avrekaalu upma for my mom and sister as they were the only ones who would eat this dish at our house. Contrary to the usual upmas that are made with cream of wheat, this upma is made with cream of rice. Ironically, I started to miss this upma after I left India and I now make this at home.
- Avrekaalu - 1 cup
- Rice rava or cream of rice - 1 cup
- Oil - 2 tbsp
- Ghee - 1 tbsp (optional)
- Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
- Green chillies - 6 (more or less depending on your spice level)
- Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
- Cilantro - 1/2 bunch
- Grated coconut - 2 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- water - 2 1/2 cups
In a saucepan, add the avrekaalu, 2 cups of water and salt, bring it to a boil. Cook till done, the beans should be slightly soft, do not overcook the beans though. You can also pressure cook it if you are pressed for time, it gets done quicker.
Finely chop the green chillies, curry leaves and cilantro. You can also use a food processor and mince the three ingredients together.
Heat oil in a large pan. Season with mustard seeds. When the seeds splutter, add the minced green chillies, curry leaves and cilantro mixture. Saute for a minute or so.
Add the rava and fry on medium heat till you can no longer get the raw smell of the rava. This should take anywhere from 6-8 minutes.
Lower the heat and add the cooked avarekaalu with the water (stock) in which it was cooked. Combine well. See to it that no lumps are formed.
Put in the grated coconut, cumin seeds and salt to taste, mix well.
Allow it to cook on low flame till all the liquid is absorbed.
Top the dish off by adding a tablespoon of ghee, this gives the dish very unique taste.
Garnish with finely chopped cilantro.
- Normally, I cook the avrekaalu on the stovetop in a saucepan, but this time, I used the pressure cooker (just 2 whistles). The process of cooking the beans got done very quickly.
- It is very important to roast the rava (cream of rice), do not skip this step. The upma will not be as aromatic as when you roast the rava. When roasting the rava, keep stirring it as it can change color and get burnt quickly.
- You can also keep a cup of boiling water on the side if you think that the water you added when cooking the upma is not enough. If the upma looks dry, add more hot water to it.
- Make sure to keep the flame low when adding water to the roasted rava as it can splatter all over. I take it off the burner, combine the mixture well and place it back on the flame. Its no fun having burning hot droplets all over your hands and the cook top.
- Do not skip adding cumin seeds, it imparts a nutty flavor which you do not get when you add it to the seasoning.
- Adding ghee to the dish after its done is optional. This was my mother-in-law’s tip, she would add a tablespoon of ghee in the end for any kind of upma she made!
- Rajesh loves to eat this with mixture (a spicy trail mix) or chevda.