January 14th is the birth of the Tamil month of Thai, and in Tamil Nadu, it is also Pongal, the harvest festival. It is a grand celebration with several vegetarian dishes marking nature’s bounty. Aviyal is a vegetable curry that is served for lunch. There are several versions of aviyal, and I am presenting here the aviyal made in Palayamkottai, Thirunelveli District. It uses many of the vegetables indigenous to Thirunelveli.
What is distinct about the Thirunelveli aviyal is that we do not use coconut oil nor do we use carrots or beans, which are considered English vegetables here. We use red gram dhal, in which also it differs from other aviyals. We also use unripe mango to give the aviyal a sour tang, though it can be made without it also. The use of curds is also optional.
Aviyal is a low calorie, low protein but high fibre dish. Though dhal and curds are used, the amount is very small in proportion to the vegetables used.
- ¼ C Red Gram Dhal
- 1 small Unripe Mango
- 2 Drumsticks
- 2 medium Potatoes
- 1 large Unripe Banana
- ¼ kg Broad Beans (avarai)
- 100 g Cluster Beans (kothu avarai or cheeni avarai)
- ¼ kg Purple Brinjal (egg plant)
- 6 Green Chillies
- 2 sprigs Curry Leaves
- 2 T diced Onion, or 15 to 20 Small Onions (whole, not diced)
- ¼ C Curds (unsweetened yoghurt)
- ¼ T Mustard Seeds
- 1 tsp Black Gram Dhal
- ¼ tsp Turmeric Powder
- ¼ tsp Asafoetida Powder
- 1 T Salt, or to taste
- 2 T Gingelly Oil or Sunflower or Groundnut Oil
- 2 C Water
- ½ C Coconut scrapings
- 1 T Cumin Seeds
- 6 Garlic Cloves
- Prepare the vegetables for cooking in the following manner.
- Cut the brinjals into wedges (after removing the stem and calyx).
- Cut the drumsticks into 5 cm pieces.
- Remove the skin of the potato and unripe banana. Cut into 3 centimetre cubes.
- String the broad beans and cluster beans and cut into 3 centimetre pieces.
- Cut the mango into large pieces.
- Remove the stems and slit the green chillies.
- Place the red gram dhal, turmeric and asafoetida powders, salt, and all the vegetables (except the green chillies and mango) in a pressure cooker. Add a cup of water and pressure cook for 5 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan.
- Add the mustard seeds and black gram dhal.
- When the mustard seeds crackle, add the onion and green chillies and fry till the onions are translucent.
- Lower heat, add the mango and 1 cup of water and boil till the mango is cooked but still firm.
- Add the pressure cooked vegetables along with the water used for cooking, the ground coconut, and the curds. Stir gently without breaking the vegetables.
- When the aviyal begins to boil add the curry leaves and remove.
- The red gram dhal is cooked along with the vegetables only for 5 minutes so that it will not have the mashed appearance that is required for other dhal curries i.e., it is three-fourths cooked.
- The mango is cooked towards the end so that the aviyal doesn’t become too sour.
- I have not added pumpkin to the aviyal, though it is a common variant. If you are wish to add pumpkin, use one wedge, remove the skin and cut into 4 centimetre pieces. Add along with the mango in Step 6.