Mmmm... Aviyal! Just the mere sight of the cornucopia of vegetables set aside for the day's meal proclaimed without a doubt what was forthcoming and ensured that there would be no complaints or tears at meal time. The veggie basket was full to the brim with a large slice of winter melon (Chinese name), green unripe bananas or plantains, a type of true yam called 'chenai', carrots, green 'Opo' squash, big golden hued cucumbers, slender green or purple eggplants, long green stick-like moringa pods called 'drumsticks', Gavar or regular green beans and a green mango or two. Aviyal literally means 'this and that' and includes at least 5 to 7 mild veggies or more.
My mother would make a huge pot of aviyal to serve over hot steamed rice accompanied by lots of fried plain papadams; one of the perfectly jubilant meals of our childhood days! Amma loved making aviyal as much as we loved eating it since she could get us to eat lots of veggies, which prepared any other way guaranteed to bring on a spate of complaints and at times even a profuse waterfall of tears! With aviyal she did not have to worry about the children getting their 5 servings of veggies a day:).
1 Golf ball size Dried Tamarind Pulp
2 cups Water
1 teaspoon ground Turmeric
2 teaspoons Salt (or to taste)
1/2 small Lauki (Opo Squash)
2 Japanese or Chinese Eggplants
1 green Plantain Banana
2 Drum Sticks (Indian Vegetables) Optional
2 Cups Green Beans or Gavar Beans
1 or 2 Potatoes
1 small green or yellow Bell Pepper
1 green unripened Mango, Optional
Masala (Spices)1 Tablespoon Cumin Seeds
1 cup Fresh or Frozen Grated Coconut
1 EACH, Fresh Green Chili and Dry Red Chili, seeds removed
1 teaspoon uncooked Rice
2 Sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves
2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
Make Tamarind water by soaking the tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water. When softened and cool enough to handle, work with fingers kneading well, and remove and discard any seeds. Pour the tamarind pupl in the blender container with the remaining water and blend smooth. If this process is too much work, then one can buy the Tamarind Concentrate in a jar and dissolve a Tablespoon of it in 2 cups of water. Add turmeric and Salt.
Wash all the veggies, peel Opo squash, Plantains, mangoes and Carrots. The plantains don't need to be peeled like one would an eating banana; use the peeler to just peel the thin outer green skin. Plantains can stain your hands as well as the cutting board; you can use gloves to protect the hands and the cutting board can be cleaned with a mild bleach solution and rinsed well. Cut all the vegetables into julienne pieces about the size of your little finger.
Heat the Tamarind water in a large Dutch Oven. Add the Opo squash, eggplant and Plantains and bring to a boil; now add the rest of the vegetables and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat and simmer covered, stirring very gently (so as not to crush the veggies) only as needed to keep the veggies from sticking to the bottom of the pot for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
Make the Masala while the veggies are cooking: grind together in the blender the cumin seeds, chilies, rice and the coconut to a smooth paste adding enough water to make blending feasible. When the veggies are cooked, stir in the Masala. Rinse the blender with a few Tablespoons of water to get all of the masala and pour this into the Aviyal. At this point check to see the consistency of the aviyal. We like the aviyal to have lots of gravy to eat with rice or roti. Add a little more water as desired. Bring to a good rolling boil and turn off the heat. Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.
Crush the fresh Curry leaves in your hand to release the flavors and place on top of the aviyal. Pour the Coconut Oil on top and cover the pot immediately. Let sit for 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. This step is very important for the Aviyal. Stir well and serve hot. Aviyal is even better the next day if there is any left;)!
Note: The bananas or plantains and the mangoes must be absolutely green and unripened; even the slightest ripening would change the flavor. For a spicier dish, leave the seeds in the chilies and/or use more chilies. For truly authentic taste, the fresh curry leaves are absolutely a must. Don't waste your money on the dried store bought curry leaves which have no flavor at all.
Here is a way to make your own flavorful dry curry leaves. Wash the fresh curry leaves; spin dry in a salad spinner or just gently towel dry and lay out on a clean, dry towel in a single layer on the counter until completely dry and store them in an airtight container.