Green beans are among the most common of vegetables used in traditional poriyals, and the crunchiness of lightly cooked fresh beans is complemented here in this version by a crisp, lightly fried mash of dals that makes the texture as enjoyable as the layers of flavours. This recipe is adapted from one in Chandra Padmanabhan's delightful and varied collection of south Indian dal, rice and vegetable dishes, a book that fully deserves its evocative title Dakshin— an ancient Sanskrit word meaning "South."
Green bean and toor dal poriyal
1 cup toor dal or yellow split peas
5 dried hot red chilies
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1 pound green beans, ends snapped off and cut into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 red cayenne peppers, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons urad dal
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 scant teaspoon cumin seeds
6-8 fresh or dried curry leaves
Rinse the toor dal thoroughly under cold running water and place in a bowl. Add the dried red chilies and cover with several inches of cold water. Soak for one hour.
Drain and place the dal and chilies along with the salt and asafoetida in a blender or food processor. Grind to a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary. Set aside.
Cook the beans in a large wok or saucepan over medium heat with a 1/4 cup of water added, stirring until the water has evaporated and the beans are just tender and a vibrant green. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Wipe the pan, return to the heat and add the olive oil. As soon as the oil is hot, add the chopped cayenne peppers, stir around for 30 seconds, then toss in the brown mustard seeds, urad dal, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Stir until the mustard seeds begin to pop.
Turn down the heat to low and add the toor dal paste. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the paste just starts to turn crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and combine throughout the dal.
Remove from heat and serve right away. Serves 4 to 6.