green beans poriyal

Summer vacations have always been synonymous with mounds of mangoes strewn in a corner of the kitchen floor till they turn as golden as sun, heavenly scents of jasmine strands pinned atop our piggy tails, playing in the shade of coconut trees with tiny white flowers and little coconuts that drop every time a soft wind sways, making teensy dolls and other playthings with their shiny slivery leaves... not to forget the refreshingly cool coconut water that we used to enjoy almost every afternoon.

Coconut water tastes like nectar, looks as though a cloud has been churned and poured into the glass but as light & life-giving as water and is full of minerals. Tender coconut flesh in the meantime is very marshmallowy in its color, texture & sweetness and cool to the touch. It makes for a very soothing and protein packed summer snack. Some like to sprinkle spoonful of sugar to make it even sweeter ( " v " )

offerings of coconut and flowers to the river goddess

Coconut tree is termed as ‘kalpavriksha’ meaning a tree of boons as every part of it is useful in so many ways. Breaking a coconut and offering it to gods on special occasions and festival days is considered auspicious.

coconut leaves being woven as a canopy for a south-Indian wedding

At our Aunt's house the leaves were used to thatch the cow shed, and rest of the dried out fronds were stacked under the staircase till we had enough to make brooms. Then me and my cousins used to sit along side our grandmother to rip the spines and tie a huge bunch of them together with twine (made from coconut husk), needless to say we've always had a steady supply of brooms and meters of twine.

Until a few years ago I remember almost everyone using coconut husk to scrub the dishes and coconut shell as a soap cup. But these days like everything else we are relying more and more on man-made materials and ignoring bio-degradable treasures that nature provide us with so freely.

And coconut oil is the best moisturizer of all. Mornings usually start with a quick brushing followed by massaging a good amount of oil into the hair before taking bath. In winters, kids are smothered in warm coconut oil and left to soak in the morning sun… bliss!

Coconut is used in various recipes in its various forms… coconut milk, coconut slivers and finely grated coconut; either fresh or sun-dried & stored in jars to be used for a long long time.

I should troll through my recipe books and make a note of all the recipes that have coconut in them… could be countless! Most of the coconut dishes are from South-India or some coastal areas like Goa where coconuts are abundant in all seasons. It is rarely used as a condiment in Northern parts of India.

This is one such recipe with French beans and can be tossed in a spoonful of lime juice for a very light summer salad.

Poriyal, vepudu, bhuna… they all are an assortment of words in regional languages to define a dry vegetable dish or something that is stir-fried. It is usually served on the side to go with rice or roti.

Green beans with coconut
serves 4.

Green beans - 1 pound (trim the ends and finely chop)
Coconut (finely grated) - ¼ cup (if fresh)/2tbsps (if using dry coconut)
Green chilies - 3
Oil - 1 tbsp
Kari leaves - a sprig (also often referred as curry leaves)
Red chilies - 1
Bengal gram (Chana dal) - 1 tsp
Split black gram (Urad dal) - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Turmeric - a pinch
Salt to taste
Garlic - 1 or 2 cloves (optional)
Juice of half a lime (optional)


Fill a sauce pan with water. Add a tsp of salt for seasoning and let the water come to a boil. Add the green beans and cook them until they are just tender.

Drain the water using a colander and set aside.
(you could use this water in a stew or dal if it’s part of your menu for the day or enjoy this as a mildly sweet tasting drink).

Alternatively, you could steam the green beans.

for coconut + green chili paste

If you are using fresh coconut, either grate the coconut or cut into small pieces. Chop green chilies. Grind them together.

If you are using frozen coconut or dry grated coconut then simply grind it with green chilies. Set aside.

seasoning and stir-fry

Take a wide skillet and set it on medium heat. Add oil. Once the oil is hot enough, first add chana dal. When you notice that they are beginning to turn pink, add urad dal, red chilies. After a couple of sec. add mustard seeds and then cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds are beginning to splutter, add Kari leaves. Hold a lid or spatter screen over the pan so that the seeds won’t splatter all over.

The order of adding these ingredients is important because of their varying cooking times.

Then immediately add green beans.

Sprinkle turmeric and salt and sauté for few min. until the beans look almost dry.

Now add coconut + green chili paste and mix well. Keep sautéing in between until the coconut doesn’t taste raw any more, maybe 10 min. on med flame.

Remove from heat and at this point if you like, squeeze a wedge of lime and mix well.

~If you feel like it needs more flavor, add a clove or 2 of crushed garlic while adding the green beans to the seasoning.

~Frozen fresh coconut is available in Indian groceries. And grated dry coconut is commonly available everywhere. I use them often when I don’t have access to a fresh coconut or when short of time.

~You can prepare any kind of green beans in a similar way. It works for most vegetables too.

Later I’ll do a quick post on carrot/cabbage poriyal with coconut minus history ( ' u ' )


Stephanie said...

I love the history with the dish. :o) I can smell the goodness. Thank you Pratima.

Ann Champion said...

Coconuts are foreign to me. We never got to have them when I was growing up. It was a treat to read about your memories and the customs. Your recipe sounds delicious..and I bet it smells wonderful as it cooks? Thank you!

sewplay said...

Pratima, your writing is beautiful. Those summer holidays sound heavenly. Thanks for the wonderful photos and recipe. Kathy

Candace said...

What beautiful prose in describing coconut, Pratima - you have a wonderful gift with words! I can just imagine myself in India after reading this! Thank you so much for delicious sounding bean dish - I like to think you thought of me knowing that I'm growing beans in my garden! I can't wait for them to sprout and mature so I can make this dish!

Martha said...

Beans are one thing I can grow in my Pacific NW garden and I, like Candace, cannot wait to try this recipe with my fresh beans. Thanks again, Pratima, for the fabulous recipe (love the coconut), with your incredible descriptions and photos. I am so excited each time you post a new one.

ashima said...

mmm .. yummy! :) .. what a heavenly dish to enjoy .. especially today with all this rain .. :)

Nanette Merrill and daughters said...

First of all your photos are beautiful and you can almost feel and smell what is in each picture. I love your descriptions of "home" and your childhood filled with tastes and smells and textures. Natural really is best and tastes the best. These beans look so fantastic. Wonderful and fresh. I love it.