Bengaluru’s inextricable relationship with avarekai — broad beans — is evident from the fact that the etymology of the city’s name is ‘Town of the Boiled Beans’. If you need proof that its residents love it, head over to the Avarekai Mela at the Food Street in VV Puram, near Sajjan Rao Circle in South Bengaluru. The festival ends on January 24.
Avarekai lovers queue up to buy fresh stock – beans pouring out in streams of green into baskets, and the rustling as they are gathered in packets to be sold is a sight and sound to behold – and sample the many dishes being cooked at the festival. Rich in protein and fibre, broad beans are highly nutritious and have been popular on all weight loss menus.
The avarekai dosa with hithkabele (avarekai without its skin) saru — a sumptuously thick uttappam-style dosa liberally sprinkled with avarekalu and served with a spicy saru, hithkabele holige (parota stuffed with jaggery/dal and hithkabele), avarekai vada, avarekai honey jalebi, avarekai mallige idli, avarekai kodubale and avarekai nippattu — are easily the most popular dishes at the mela. Others include avarekai bhaath, avarekai shavige, sweets — like avarekai barfi, avarekai rava laddo — and fried savoury items like garlic hithkabele, cashew hithkabele and avarekai pani puri — a twist to Mumbai’s street food. Says a service staff member at the festival, “Illi neeru bittu yella talli avarekai siggatte — apart from water everything else you get here has avarekai.”
While the beans are now available largely through the year, it is during the winter months that you can find them at their freshest, most plentiful and also available at very reasonable rates. “This is the sixteenth year of the mela,” says Swathi Karmakar, whose mother Geetha Shivakumar — proprietor of Sri Vasavi Condiments — organises the festival and whose recipes have been put to test at the festival. “In the early years, she would cook herself. But now the demand is so much that we have cooks who follow her recipes. Every year we try and introduce one new item.” Last year was the hithkabele honey jalebi — a sinfully delicious and crunchy jalebi, bursting with the flavour of honey and avarekai. This year they have introduced the avarekai jahangir and avarekai pickles.
What started off as a small endeavour to help the avarekai farmers sell their produce now involves more than 200 farmers and their families from Magadi, Kolar and Chikmagalur. When the festival was launched, a total of 1,000 kg avarekai would be purchased. Now close to 1,000 kgs are purchased directly from the farmers during every day of the festival — a testimony to the growing popularity of both the mela and avarekai. “We do this to help those famers who are growing only avarekai,” explains Swathi.
According to Dileep V — who has been a regular at the avarekai mela — it is because of the versatility of the bean. “It’s multi-faceted. I can’t think of anything else that can be used to make or flavour almost any local dish without overwhelming the taste,” he says. But there is another deeper, more historical connect with the bean. Legend traces it to 12th century Hoysala king — King Vira Ballala II — who was out hunting in the area that is now Yelahanka in Bengaluru when he lost his way. He came upon a hut belonging to an old woman, who offered him cooked beans (benda kalu) and water. So pleased he was with her generosity that he named the area Bendekaluru — Town of Boiled Beans — which over time became Bengaluru.
It is no wonder then that the avarekai mela has become an intrinsic part of the city’s socio-cultural fabric.
Recipe for Hithkabele Saru — serves 4
Hithkabele – 1 big glass
Dhania seeds – 1 tbsp
Copra (dried coconut) – 1/2 inch
Onions – 2
Poppy seeds – 2 tsp
Freshly grated coconut – 1/2 cup
Salt – To taste
Jaggery – Small piece
Byadagi red chillies – 12-15
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Few sprigs curry leaves
Oil – 2 tbsp
*Take an onion and roast it on medium flame.
*Grind the roasted onion, dhania seeds, red chillies and copra in a moxie and set aside (mixture 1).
*Grind the fresh coconut and poppy seeds and set aside (mixture 2).
*Cut the second onion in cubes.
*In your cooking vessel, heat oil, and add the mustard seeds, cubed onions and curry leaves. Fry for 1-2 minutes.
*Add the hithkabele and stir nicely.
*Add Mixture 1 and fry for a couple of minutes.
*Add around 2 big glasses of boiling water.
*Let the saru boil for about 15-20 minutes till the hithkabele is about 80% cooked.
*Add mixture 2.
*Cook till the hithkabele is fully cooked and the smell of raw coconut has gone.
*Add salt to taste and the small piece of jaggery.
You can add some more water here if you feel the consistency is too thick — but remember to check your seasonings accordingly.
Recipe courtesy: Krupa Nanjesh — a homemaker who was handed this recipe by her mother.
Recipe for Avarekai Saru — serves 2
Avarekai – 1 cup
Sambar dal – 1 tbsp
Byadgi red chillies – 2
Dhania seeds – 1/2 tsp
Ginger – 1 inch
Garlic – 5-6 cloves
Coconut – 2 tbsp
Medium sized onion – 1
Rasam powder (any variety can be used) – 2 tsp
Haldi – 1/2 tsp
Salt – To taste
Tamarind – one small ball soaked in warm water
Few sprigs of curry leaves
Hing – 1 pinch
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
*Boil the avarekai and dal in a pressure cooker for approx 6-8 whistles.
*Take two tbsp of the boiled avarekai and dal and grind in a mixie (mixture 1).
*Dry fry the chillies, dhania seeds, ginger, garlic, and onion (mixture 2).
*Grind mixture 2 along with the coconut in a mixie.
*In your cooking vessel, add the boiled avarekai and dal, and mixture 1 and 2.
*Add warm water depending on the consistency you want.
*Add tamarind juice as per taste, rasam powder, haldi, and salt.
*Boil well till the avarekai is fully cooked and the consistency becomes thick.
*In a small pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds, curry leaves and hing and fry till the seeds splutter.
*Add it to the avarekai saru.
Recipe courtesy: The writer’s mother — Balamba Ranganna — who in turn was taught this recipe by her mother.