Thursday, October 27, 2016

Green beans (ಹುರಳೀಕಾಯಿ) palya - glorious in its simplicity, an all time favorite stir fry

Palya in Kannada is the name for a vegetable stir fry. There are no bells or whistles on this dish, it is a vegetable in its purest form, sauteed in a teeny bit of oil and seasoned with a minimal number of flavors, this recipe is a must on occasions both auspicious and otherwise. Festival menus are generally multi coursed meals with a defined structure. In Kannadiga festivals or weddings, the meal is served on a fresh banana leaf, and it begins with a sampling of all items as the first course. You get a spoonful of everything served on the leaf before the meal can officially begin and then there are well defined courses that follow one after the other each meant to carry you to a higher gastronomical ecstasy from the previous one (if such a thing is possible):-). These meals are well balanced with all the required nutrition as long as you are disciplined enough to stay in control.
What I appreciate most about the way food is served in Karnataka is that you get an idea of the dishes to come in the bird's eye view picture painted in the first course. The only ones you don't see at the beginning are the very special 'dessert of the day' and the 'always present and always last course' yogurt. This serving style lets you be the responsible citizen and decide what & how much of each item you want to eat during the meal :-). Good system, huh?
Even with all the special food on the banana leaf, my preference has always been on the fresh palya and kosambri(salad made with lentils and either cucumber or carrots) at the top half of the leaf. These two items somehow hold an irresistible allure for me. The first course or the sampling course would conclude when hot steaming rice is served in the center of the banana leaf with a spoon of tovve (gently seasoned lentil broth) and a dollop of ghee on top. While the elders were expected to wait until this stage was reached and the customary prayer was said, the little children are generally excused if they cannot extend their patience or hold out on being kids :-). When we were little kids, the palya and the kosambri would be gone within a minute of it being put there :-).
This palya is not only made on special occasions but is a very frequently spotted dish on every day meals as well. Called poriyal in other regions palya has the stamp of Mysuru cuisine. There are no spices (ground or whole) used in this recipe. Fresh green chilies and curry leaves impart the subtle flavors to the natural taste of the vegetable. The south Indian special asafoetida is the only bold flavor you will notice in this dish. Even in the absence of spices or complex tastes/flavors this stir fried vegetable manages to capture attention both on a wide spread festive platter or as part of a simple everyday meal. DD calls this palya version 1 since I make different variations with combinations of vegetables.
There isn't much interms of recipe here but it is something I relate directly with home meals. Almost everyone in the Mysuru region make this pretty much the same way, may be with minor alterations. Nammamma, true to her style of cooking added generous amounts of grated coconut, a small spoon of sugar which makes this palya unusually delicious. This unassuming, simple dish is a reminder of simpler, carefree days from childhood for me.
What do you need to make green beans palya?
1/2 Lb tender green beans
2 tbsp grated fresh coconut (if using frozen, make sure you bring thaw it)
2 green chilies
1/2 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 Tsp sugar
1 Tsp lemon/lime juice
3-5 curry leaves
1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard
1 Tsp urad dal
1 Tsp chana dal
1/8 Tsp asafoetida
How do you make green beans palya? 
  • Wash and pat dry the green beans, chop the two ends off and chop the beans into tiny bits (smaller the better :-))
  • Slit the chilies vertically and chop them fine.
  • In a big kadai, heat 1 Tbsp oil and add the seasoning ingredients and roast them on low heat. 
  • Once the dals are golden brown, add the finely chopped green beans, chopped chilies, chopped curry leaves, sugar, salt and mix well with the seasoning so the oil coats the vegetable. 
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 8-10 mins until the beans are tender but retain a slight bite. 
  • Add grated coconut and lemon/lime juice, mix well and switch off. 
  • Makes a great side dish for chapatis or rotis as well. 
  • You can slit the green beans vertically and chop them into bits to get smaller pieces.
  • Roasting the seasoning ingredients on a low heat ensures that they hold on to their crunchiness for longer. 
  • If you are feeding little kids or people with low tolerance for the heat from the chilies, you can make a coarse paste (without any water) in a mortar and pestle instead of chopping which gets in the bites. Adjust the amount of chilies to suit your taste. 
  • The quantity I have here is small and does not need any water to cook as long as you keep the heat on low and cover and let it cook in its moisture.