In South India, a typical lunch or dinner plate will have rice, some kind of “curry” (like sambar, a soupy lentil curry or mooru, a mild buttermilk and coconut based concoction) and a side of vegetable. At our house, we may also serve fish or chicken or at least an egg omelette, and a quick, easy and healthy meal is ready in no time.
The vegetable side dish is where one can get creative. The easiest and most common recipe to make is a typical thoran or poriyal. This simply means stir-fried vegetables with an aromatic tadka or tempering of shallots, mustard seeds, curry leaves and red chilies. In Tamil cuisine, one might also add urad dal, cumin seeds, turmeric and coriander to the dressing. All of this simply depends on your taste and convenience.
Here is a simple recipe made with the freshest green beans. A quick trip to your local Indian store should provide you with all the special ingredients.
Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a few, roughly torn
Shallots – 2 tbsp, chopped (can also use red onions)
Whole dried red chilies – 3-4
Green beans – 1 lb, washed and diced into 1/4″ pieces
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup, fresh or frozen, but not desiccated
Salt – 1/2 tsp or to taste
Heat oil in a deep skillet or pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they start to sizzle and crackle, add the onions and red chilies. Saute till onions are lightly golden.
Then add the chopped green beans and stir fry for a minute or so. Sprinkle some water and salt, reduce heat to low, cook and cover till beans are just cooked.
Open the lid, fold in the shredded or grated coconut and saute for a few more seconds to make sure there is no residual water in the pan.
Remove from heat and serve hot along with rice and sambar or dal.