Onam 2023: 6 Handy Tips To Ace The Veggie Loaded Perfect Avial
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Onam, a festival celebrated with great zeal and enthusiasm, marks the harvest and return of King Mahabali to his own beloved state. This 10-day long festival, also known as the Thiru-Onam or Thiruvonam, holds a great significance amongst the Malayali community. There may be different ways to celebrate the festival but the one element that remains absolutely the same is-Onam Sadhya. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this massive feast celebrates the broad and versatile cuisine of the state.  

Onam Sadhya features over 25 dishes and one of the most essential is Avial. It is a simple and delicious mix of vegetables cooked in a coconut and yogurt-based gravy. As stated in The Illustrated Foods of India by food historian K.T. Achaya "Avial or Aviyal is a vegetable dish of Kerala that uses green bananas, drumsticks, various soft beans and fresh coconut gratings. These are first cooked in coconut milk and then tossed with some aromatic coconut oil and spiced sour curd”. Did you know that avial has an interesting history? 

If some legends are to be believed avial was created by the renowned ancient South Indian sage Agastya. The legend says that when sage Agastya visited a household where the lady made a dish with leftover vegetables to impress him. She combined various vegetables with coconut and yogurt to create a flavorful and nutritious dish, which came to be known as avial. Another legend says credits Bhima for the creation of avial during their period of exile in the forest. 

The story goes that during their exile, the Pandavas faced a shortage of food. Bhima, who was known for his exceptional strength and appetite, was assigned the task of cooking for the group. To make a substantial and nourishing meal with the limited ingredients available in the forest, Bhima collected a variety of vegetables and mixed them with coconut, yogurt, and spices to create a dish that was not only flavorful but also provided essential nutrients for his family. Legend has it that King Mahabali loved avial, and thus, it is an integral part of the grand Onam Sadhya. 

Avial is made using a wide variety of vegetables and this aspect, perfectly showcases the aligns with the philosophy of South Indian cuisine while emphasizing on the use of seasonal and locally available and seasonal ingredients. Over the years, avial has evolved, and different variations and adaptations have emerged. While the core ingredients like coconut, yogurt, and a mix of vegetables remain constant, there can be regional differences in the choice of vegetables and even in the spices used for flavoring.  

However, making the perfect avial requires attention to detail and a good understanding of the ingredients and techniques involved. This Onam, keep these 6 tips handy and make the perfect avial for your Onam Sadhya. Have a look: 

Always Choose The Right Vegetables 

Traditionally made up of a variety of vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, beans, potatoes, avial should be cooked using the right vegetables. It is essential to select a mix of vegetables that provide a balance of flavors, textures, and colors. It is advisable to cut the vegetables into uniform sizes for even and perfect cooking. 

Use A Coconut-Yogurt Base 

The coconut and yogurt base gives avial its distinct flavor and creaminess which it is known for. It is advisable to grind fresh coconut with cumin seeds to a coarse texture followed by yogurt to create a smooth paste. This paste is the heart of avial's taste and thus, it is essential to ensure the balance of coconut and yogurt is just right. 

Say No To Overcooking 

Avial has the slightly crunchy texture of the vegetables and thus, it is essential to not overcook. The veggies should be firm. One should start by cooking the hard vegetables first beans and carrots and then add other vegetables like drumsticks and potatoes later. 

Tempering with Curry Leaves Is The Key 

A classic avial is finished with a tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves. To make a perfect tempering, heat some coconut oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. Then, add in curry leaves and dried red chilies for a burst of aroma and flavour and carefully pour this tempering over the cooked avial for an authentic touch. 

Balance The Falvours Right 

Avial is indeed a balance of flavors which perfectly brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables, tanginess of yogurt, and the most important, richness of coconut. Adjust the seasoning with salt and a pinch of sugar or jaggery to enhance the overall taste 

Keep An Eye On Garnish and Presentation 

To enhance the visual appeal, consider adding a pop of color by including a handful of fresh chopped cilantro. The vibrant green cilantro adds freshness to the dish. When serving, arrange the colorful vegetables artistically on a platter, showcasing their natural beauty.