Avre = Navy Beans
Bendi = a spicy coconut, chilly and tamarind concoction.
and thus, Avre Bendi.
The beauty about so many of konkani curries are the fact that they use just these 3 ingredients, but just by varying the quantity of each or grounding it coarsely or finely, they change the taste and the texture of the curry. The second thing I love about these curries is that there is not much of sauteing or bhunoing involved. You cook the beans in the pressure cooking for upto 3 whistles and while that is happening you grind up the coconut, chillies and tamarind. Add the paste to the cooked beans with salt and bring to boil. Season. Thats it. I mean, all of this doesn’t take more than 10 mins. On the days that I make an authentic konkani meal, I finish all of the cooking– a curry, rice and a side dish in 20 minutes. Using all four burners at the same time, of course. Heck, I could give Rachel Ray a run for her money. :)
Beans are the biggest source of protein in many predominantly vegetarian cuisine. While, konkani cuisine is famous for its seafood preparations, it is not part of the everyday food. Except, by choice, that is. So, mostly,the daily food is rice, beans and a vegetable together with buttermilk. A complete meal. As I said before, the curries are defined by the quantities used and the texture into which it is ground. In the case of bendi, less of the coconut, more of the chillies and tamarind and ground into a fine paste. Bendi’s are seasoned with garlic.
1 cup navy beans soaked over night and cooked till soft
1/4 cup grated coconut
8-10 dried red chillies
1/2 tsp tamarind paste / marble sized piece of tamarind , if using actual pods
3-4 garlic cloves
oil for seasoning and roasting chillies
Roast the chillies in a little bit of oil on a low flame. You know they are roasted when they loose the wrinkly look and puff up. Cool them a little bit and then grind them up with coconut and tamarind into a fine paste. This takes some work , if you are using american blenders. Heat up the cooked beans till they start boiling, add the paste , salt and mix. The broth will start foaming and then settle down. The paste is cooked when all of the foam has died down. Remove from flame. Heat up oil and garlic together in a small pan. Never put garlic in hot oil. Always put it in the oil and then heat up the oil. This way the garlic cooks just enough and doesnt burn. Also, the oil gets infused with the garlic juices better. Add this tempering to the bendi and immediately cover up the pot. Mix the seasoning in before serving.
Today,I had these with boiled rice (parboiled rice in the US is just not the same). I used the ones I have from India. Most people in Mangalore still eat this rice as their daily rice. The younger generation, however, seem to prefer white rice. As for people like me, born and brought up in Bombay,white rice is daily rice and eating boiled rice is something that ups the exotic quotient.