Regional Indian dishes, use a variety of fresh beans or legumes, with edible pods that one can find featured in an array of savoury preparations from sabzis, poriyals and stews. Here are five commonly found ones to know about.
Fresh beans or peas, usually can be divided into two broad categories - one where the pods of said beans are edible and the other, where only the seeds are consumed. As is the case for green peas, fava beans and soybeans, where only the seeds encased in these green pods are eaten, and the casing discarded, a few varieties of green beans exist with pods that can be eaten as is, along with any seeds. In Indian cooking, a wide variety of fresh beans are used in an array of regional, savoury preparations that are usually eaten as accompaniments to flatbreads or rice. Here are a few of them:
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Also known as string beans, the most commonly available variety of fresh beans, these are used for dishes like stir fries, stews and curries. These green beans are long, and thick to the feel and the edible pods can also be cultivated in home gardens, for personal use. With a lightly crunchy texture and a sweet flavour, once cooked, string beans can also be eaten raw in salads.
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With flat, translucent pods, barf matar or snow peas have a sweet, vegetal flavour and a crunchy texture. Mostly used whole, these pods have flat, small peas encased in them and are typically steamed or roasted, to develop a soft, chewy texture. The crisp pods of snow peas can also be prepared in a simplistic manner, where it is tossed with some crushed red chillies and garlic, for a quick topping to eat with rice.
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These thin green beans are also known by other names like long beans or yard long beans and have a meaty, chewy texture. Lambi phali can grow almost three feet in length and possess a mellow earthiness that works well in dishes that use plenty of spices and aromatics. Packed with vitamins A and C, along with other essential nutrients, this bean variety is high on fibre.
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These broad beans are used as a vehicle to place a stuffing of gram flour and spices, to make the most delicious stuffed beans. In fact, Bengaluru’s famous ‘Mountain Dew’ jalebis use a batter made with these edible pods for a delicious sweet preparation. Avarakkai or broad beans, are eaten as a staple in Maharashtrian cuisine as well as used for a wide number of preparations in South Indian cooking.
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Slightly bitter in flavour, these smooth, flat cluster beans or gawar phali, are similar in flavour to broad beans. Known to be an excellent vegetable for diabetics, these beans can be stir fried, added to gravies or eaten sauteed in a mixture of spices. Best enjoyed with hot rotis, gawar phali is also a rich source of fibre and proteins. This leguminous variety usually needs a robust hit of spices or flavours to contrast the underlying bitterness.