Monday, November 16, 2009

Val Usal / Valachi Usal / Field Beans Curry



Vaal or Bitter field beans are apart of the Maharashtrian staple diet. These beans taste like Soy beans but have a little bitter taste. I find these at Cash & Carry in Sunnyvale but I have not seen these at my other regular grocery stores. When I bought it the first time I used the field beans without removing the skin. The curry was good but the beans had a leathery texture. Then my mother told me that these beans were to be used after being skinned. The skinning process is a little tedious but worth the trouble for the fabulous tasting usal.

Soaking the vaal beans in warm water for 12-14 hours makes them absorb water and puff up. I change the water every 5-6 hours. Drain the water and put them in a muslin cloth. Cover the beans with the edges of the muslin cloth and keep it in a warm place for another 12-14 hours. The Vaal will have small sprouts. It is very similar to sprouting moong gram. Once the vaal beans have sprouted, keep the vaal bean between the index finder and the thumb and press them to separate the skin. This procedure needs to be done with every bean. The best time to do this procedure is while watching TV. The whole family can be involved in this procedure and if you have kids they will have a lot of fun skinning the beans.


Usal is a Maharashtrian or Konkan dish which is made with a variety of lentils including moong. It is similar to the Konkani Usli but has a addition of spices like turmeric, cumin and coriander. Usal gets its sweetish taste from the jaggery. The sour flavor comes from the kokum which is commonly used in the coastal areas. I use byadgi chili powder which imparts a deep red color to the dish without imparting a very spicy flavor. Kashmiri chili powder can also be used as an alternative. Here is the recipe for making vaal usal. I am reposting it and sending it for the RCI MUMBAI event orgamized by Lakshmi event and Lakshmi.

Ingredients
2 cups skinned vaal beans
4-5 kokum peels or 1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 medium red onion
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
2 pinches asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon crushed jaggery
1/2 teaspoon goda masala (optional)
1 teaspoon byadgi or kashmiri chili powder or as per taste
5 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves or cilantro
1 tablespoon oil
salt for taste

Method
Soak the kokum pieces in water for 3-4 hours or overnight. Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida. Add chopped onion and fry it till onion is brown. Add the vaal beans and add 2 cups of water. Cover and cook till the vaal is soft. Crush the kokum with your fingers to extract all the juice from the kokum. Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, chili powder, kokum juice or tamarind paste, jaggery, goda masala, coriander leaves and salt for taste to the vaal. Mix well and cook uncovered for 5 minutes and serve hot with roti.