My husband grew up on the spice coast of South India in Kerala and each Sunday night we are treated to a South India feast. In general, South Indian cuisine is much quicker and easier to prepare than North Indian fare. It uses flavors and cooking techniques similar to those in South East Asia in combination with the classic Indian spices. My advice: If you have ever wanted to cook Indian at home, start in the South with a simple dish like this family favorite.
This is the Man’s quick and easy go-to side dish for our Sunday supers in Kerala. Coconut, mustard seeds, and curry leaves spice up the humble little snap beans and make it a Kerala classic.
- 1 ½ lbs. snap beans, green or wax, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 ½ T oil, canola or coconut
- ½ t black mustard seeds
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about a ½ cup)
- ½ t kosher salt
- 10 – 15 fresh curry leaves (optional)
- ¼ t turmeric
- 1 t paprika
- Pinch or more cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 T shredded coconut (unsweetened)
- ⅔ cup water or more as needed
- Using a 12 or 14-inch sauté pan or skillet with a lid, heat the oil until hot. Add mustard seeds and sauté until they just start to pop. This is called tempering the spices.
- Once they pop, immediately add the onion, salt, curry leaves, turmeric, paprika and cayenne. Saute until the onion just begins to brown—5 minutes.
- Add beans and ⅔ cup of water. Cover and let steam until the beans are tender—about 10 minutes. (Add more water if necessary).
- Remove lid, add coconut and continue sauteing until all the liquid evaporates about 1 minute longer.
- Serve with rice and yogurt.
“Do you know what they call Indian food in India?…Food. That is one of our long running little jokey admonishments to the kids. It comes up when they make a comment about not wanting to try some dish because it is new or unfamiliar. What’s left out, but certainly implied and understood, “Now try it.” Rejecting food based on appearance or unfamiliarity is a strict no-no here and should be for you too.
From the age of about 2, kids have a natural impulse to reject any new food. It is a self preservation instinct. The first time a toddler experiences a new taste, they will only consume a little. We evolved that way so as not to accidentally ingest a big bowl full of poisonous berries and die. Instead, we eat a little, wait to see if there are any adverse effects. None noted…let’s eat a little more of that food next time around and re-evaluate. It makes perfect evolutionary sense, doesn’t it? Those of the species who threw caution to the wind and ate the big bowl of poisonous berries, well they didn’t last long enough to pro-create. Millions of years of natural selection have given rise to the picky eater.
So don’t hesitate to serve something new. Even if it is rejected, serve it again and again if you liked it. Have the kids try at least one bite each time. I guarantee that they will come around to eating it eventually. Eighteen exposures to a new food is the rule. And the next time you’re in a conversation where you say or hear something like, “Little Bobby would never try anything like Indian food,” remember what they call Indian food in India. One billion people can’t be wrong.
Snap beans are prone to frost damage. To prevent this, store them in a paper bag placed in another plastic bag and placed in the warmest part of the fridge. Do not wash them before storing. They should keep up to a week like this.