A signature dish, a much celebrated dish of Onam Sadhya-Aviyal is possibly one of those dishes that has breached the barrier of states and is known beyond Kerala. While this distinction was reserved earlier for dishes like Idlis and Dosas which are now a part of every restaurant menu, now with the increased proliferation of Internet, people have become more aware of different cuisines.
Replicating a typical Sadhya menu in a North Indian kitchen which was unheard of until a few years ago is suddenly not a strange phenomenon anymore.
Aviyal is a mixed veg preparation specially served in Onasadya. It holds its prominence in both types of Sadhyas- 4 Curry (Nalu Kootan) and 8 Curry (Ettu Kootan). The veggies that are preferred for Aviyal are those that retain its shape and texture while those that can become soft and mushy are skipped in this preparation. In colloquial Malayalam Aviyal means to mix or mess up. Another meaning of the word Aviyal is “boil or cook in water”.
My first exposure to this authentic dish was at the home of our Malayali friends, a lovely couple from Kerala who have now settled in Bangalore- Pooja and Girish Nair. We have been friends for more than a decade now and she is my first point of contact for any query related to Kerala food. In fact, Pooja has been very patient and has provided immense help in designing the current Sadhya series on our YouTube Channel.
We were visiting them for the first time in mid of the year 2014, and it was our first visit to the Nair family after they got married earlier that year in February. Pooja, with the knowledge of our affinity to Kerala Cuisine was very excited, and it reflected in the elaborate spread of meal that she had designed for us in those two days. Prior to this visit, we had visited Kerala on two occasions as a part of our Food expeditions and both these journeys had left a lasting impression on our taste buds.
We were equally excited to meet the newly married couple and were thrilled at the prospect of eating some homely authentic food cooked in a true Nair way of cooking and boy I must admit we were treated with some best food in those two days.
Pooja had cooked authentic dishes like Aviyal, Pachadi, Kalan, chicken curry with coconut milk, Appam and many more. She did cook Aviyal in afternoon for us but she reserved it until dinner. She explained that dishes like Aviyal which are made with Coconut paste taste better few hours later and must not be had hot. She was absolutely correct as I remember we served ourselves multiple servings of Matta rice and Aviyal that evening.
Over the years, I have acquired some knowledge about Aviyal. The beauty of this recipe is that it is made with the locally available fresh vegetables, few basic spices and a coarse fresh coconut paste. A thumb rule that must be adhered in the recipe is about chopping of Vegetables. All the veggies used in this dish must be diced uniformly- we have diced all veggies into length of 5-6 cm and thickness of 1-cm. The rationale being during Sadhya, when Aviyal is cooked in bulk the evenly sized veggies get cooked uniformly.
Aviyal is not only an integral part of Sadhya but also is an important part of our Mythology. There are several stories in out mythology that refer to Aviyal in some way. Let me share an interesting story about the origin of Aviyal.
At the end of 12 years of exile from their kingdom, Pandavas were getting ready for one year of ‘staying in disguise’. They had to go undetected for a year from Duryodhana and his spies. The brothers then decided to take refuge in King Virata’s kingdom and how they would disguise themselves. While Yudhishthira disguised as a Brahmin, Arjuna was disguised as a dancer and Bhima became a cook named Vallabha in King Virata’s royal kitchen. Once upon a time, Hermit Durvasa visited King Virata and by the time he landed in the kingdom, it was post lunch. Hermit Durvasa was known for his ill-temper and people feared his curses. To save his king from the wrath of Hermit, Bhima mixed all the vegetables in his pantry and made a dish and served it to Durvasa. Durvasa liked that dish and he was pleased. That dish which was served to Durvasa later came to be known as Aviyal (recounted from Devdutt Pattnaik’s book on Mahabharata “Jaya”)
Serve some traditional Kerala preparation-Aviyal to your family and share your feedback with us in comment section below.
- 2 Drumsticks=70 gms
- 70 gms Pumpkin
- 60 gms Long Beans
- 70 gms Carrot
- 1 Raw Plantain (70 gms)
- 60 gms Yam
- Cut all the above Vegetables (1-6) into 5-cm length and 1-cm thickness
- 1 Cup=100 gms grated Fresh Coconut
- ¼th Cup=60 gms Curd
- 4 Green Chilies
- 15-20 Curry Leaves
- Water as needed
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- ½ tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1 tsp Red Chili Powder
- 2 tbsp Coconut Oil (can be replaced with any other Vegetable Oil)
- Put a Large Pan on heat. Add Drumsticks, Pumpkin, Yam, Carrots, Raw Plantains, Long Beans. Add 2 Cups Water. Add Salt, Turmeric Powder, Red Chili Powder and mix well
- Aviyal is made with seasonal produces. We can also add Cucumber and Colocasia in Aviyal. Cover and Cook on low heat
- Grind Coconut, Cumin Seeds, Green Chilies and 8-10 Curry Leaves into a coarse paste. Do not use water while grinding
- We have cooked all the vegetables for 18 mins on low heat. Let's check the vegetables now. Yam and Drumsticks have cooked. Vegetables are cooked and yet are firm in shape
- Add Coconut paste, whisked Curd. Mix all the ingredients
- Cook on low heat for couple of mins
- After 2 mins of cooking, add 10-12 Curry Leaves. Add 2 tbsp Coconut Oil (or any other Vegetable Cooking Oil).
Click to watch recipe video