This quick and easy stir fry is a great side to any south Indian lunch or dinner. The green beans are cooked just enough to retain their crunch, and we do without the usual ground Indian spices to keep the dish fresh and light. What makes it special though, is this perfect balance of flavors – sweet, spicy, sour and bitter!
Stir Fried Green Beans with chili, mustard and coconut
- A Mortar and Pestle
- A deep bottomed frying pan [Karahi / Kadai] with a lid
- A food processor / blender / Coconut scraper
- 2.5 tsp Mustard seeds [1.5 tsp to be ground, and 1 tsp for the tempering]
- 2 Green Chilies
- 2 tbs Coconut Oil
- 1 tsp Chana Dal [split, dried chickpeas]
- 1 tsp Urad Dal [split , dried black gram (without husk)]
- 1/4th tsp Hing [asafoetida]
- 1/4th Kilogram Green Beans [also called French beans]
- Salt [to taste]
- 6 – 8 Curry Leaves
- 2 tsp Jaggery [unrefined Cane sugar]
- 1 Lime
- 1/2 cup Coriander Leaves [cilantro]
- 1/3rd cup Fresh Grated Coconut
- 3 – 4 tbs Water
- Wash and slice the green beans into thin rounds2
- Crush 1.5 tsp of mustard seeds and the green chilies in a mortar and pestle to a very coarse paste. Yes, you could use a small blender / grinder to do this. But since the quantity is really small, a mortar and pestle will work best3.
- Heat a couple of tbs of coconut oil4 in a deep bottomed frying pan; add a tsp of mustard seeds and wait for them to pop / sputter.
- Next, add the chana dal, urad dal and asafoetida to the pan; make sure the heat is turned down really low at this point! Stir the dal around until it takes on a nutty aroma and nice golden colour5.
- Add the sliced green beans to the pan and stir fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Now add the chili – mustard paste, cover6 and simmer for about 5 – 7 mins. You could also add a tbs of water at this point to prevent any burning.
- After 5 – 7 mins have passed, check if the beans are tender enough to eat; if not cook a little longer. Also add salt to taste at this point. If you feel that the beans need to be cooked longer, add a few tbs of water and let them continue to cook on a low heat; this will prevent burning.
- Once the beans are cooked well enough (and still have a bit of their crunch), make a well in the middle of the vegetables and add 2 tsp of crushed jaggery7. Allow the jaggery to melt and then stir so that it coats the beans well. Turn the heat off.
- Once off the heat, add the juice of half a lime, half a cup of fresh, chopped coriander leaves and a third of a cup of freshly grated coconut to the pan. The coriander is essential and not a mere garnish to this dish; its freshness softens the strong flavors of mustard and jaggery. Stir well, and taste test once more to see if the 4 main flavor elements1 and salt are well balanced. Adjust if necessary and you are ready to serve!
Here are the 4 ingredients that must be perfectly balanced to give this dish it’s distinct flavour:
- Lime – gives the dish a citrusy sour punch
- Green Chilies – for the heat / spice
- Mustard seeds – add a unique bitter taste to the dish
- Jaggery – for the sweetness
2Slicing the green beans thin helps them cook faster and allows the flavorings to coat the vegetable completely. It also gives the dish a great texture, that would be hard to achieve if the beans were cut any broader.
3Use a pinch of salt to act as an abrasive when crushing the mustard and chilies; this will break them down faster. Here’s a before and after picture to give you an idea of how coarse the paste should be.
4You could use any other vegetable oil instead; the flavor of coconut oil compliments this dish the best though.
5Here’s a before and after picture of the dals so you can see how brown to let them get; any further and they will taste burnt!
6Leave the lid slightly uncovered; this helps the beans retain their bright green colour. Covering the dish all the way somehow makes them fade.
7Dropping the jaggery in the middle of the pan, with the beans pushed to the side, helps it melt quicker.
This stir fry packs a punch on the flavor front, while still being very very healthy! (green beans happen to be a great source of fibre)
The recipe relies mostly on pantry staples, and does not require any other vegetables – no onions, ginger, garlic or potatoes needed. This means minimal time spent prepping and chopping ingredients; and for this very reason, these green beans happen to be one of my go-to’s for a quick veggie fix!
Hope you’ll give this recipe a shot; let me know in the comments below if you need any additional instructions. 🖖