My mother and I were having a conversation about one of my favourite ingredients of this season and apparently the name that I’m familiar with is different from how it is known in stores in the city.
So we actually ended up arguing about that ! I’m referring to the mochai or mochakottai. I’m told that the correct name to ask for it would be pachai avarai !
Well… for me, the word ‘avarai’ brings to mind the avaraikkai, also known as broad beans or lab lab which is mostly consumed throughout the year. The mochai on the other hand is a treat which is enjoyed only during spring.
When cooking a seasonal ingredient many a time one does have access to a plethora of recipes wherein it is cooked in many different ways. The mochai is a prime example of one such a seasonal ingredient. It is delicious in, a flavourful South Indian gravy, a simple poriyal (lightly stir fried), in a rice dish and also as a crunchy snack that can be munched on at any time of the day.
The mochai kozhambhu with it’s addition of onions, spice powders and tomatoes is a family favourite and is perfect to have with steamed rice. Most children love the taste and texture of these beans.They are a good source of protein and easily digestible when in season. It’s best to enjoy it fresh and not get into the habit of freezing them to eat later when not in season. Ingredients when eaten out of season will not be beneficial to health.
When I was looking for the right English word to describe this local food to my friends abroad, I was surprised that it was referred to as; the hyacinth bean, field beans and lima beans. I’m not sure which one is accurate because the images do seem rather similar.
While the avare bele mela is popular on the streets of Bengaluru I always thought that the fried mochakottai (pachai avarai varuthathu) is a Coimbatore speciality. It was a snack that my brother ate by the handfuls when growing up. Like many other homes in Coimbatore, our mother would make large quantities of this crunchy yellow and green snack and dish the little beans out at tea time in a bowl.While I always favoured the small green ones because they seemed to crackle and dissolve in the mouth more easily than the harder yellow bits, my brother was much easier to please and enjoyed the treat in it’s entirety. It’s a memory which gets better with each year! I was most surprised to learn that this is known as the avarekalu mixture and is just as popular in the State of Karnataka.
It was only later that I even understood the process of how these plump, satiny beans got transformed into minuscule salty bites of crispiness. After leaving the fresh beans to soak for a few hours, the outer skin is peeled off and is set aside.The peeled beans are then dunked in hot oil until well done and seasoned with salt and red chilli powder.
Making a large quantity of fried mochakottai requires a great deal of time and not everyone can make it at home. So when I made enquiries as to where one can source this unique delicacy here in Coimbatore my cousin sister gave me a few options. It was a bit annoying however when some of the establishments insisted that it was not yet mochai season (I beg to differ !)
Unwilling to give up we persevered until we located a source. Vinupriya home foods is a shop that is popular for spices mixtures, blends etc which taste of authentic home flavours.They had just received their first stock of the delicious fried avarai. Ajitha who spoke over the telephone was polite and agreed to set aside a kilo, packed to custom weight specifications which made it easy for me to share with the rest of my family.
When searching for this fried snack, some comments I received from store owners were, “do you want dhal mixture?”,”mochai na yenna?”,”we don’t sell all those things”. It was rather alarming to see how far removed we are increasingly becoming from our native food habits. Popular shops should take on the responsibility of adding seasonal foods to their specialties and thereby educate the younger lot to expose their palate to the diverse diet of our region. It certainly does go a long way in understanding the local food chain not to mention way more interesting than eating yet another potato chip!
Vinupriya home foods
106/1, Big bell complex,
Diwan Bahadhur road, R.S.Puram,