When Fahim’s parents come for a visit, they sometimes bring things with them, usually food items of one description or another. It might be sweets like muscat or jellabies, or fruit from their trees like mango or papaya. Sometimes, it’s green chillies or other vegetables. This last visit? Awara.
Awara look a bit like snap peas, only bigger, badder, and on way more steroids. But are they a pea or a bean and what the heck are they?
As it turns out, awara (in Sinhalese) is the immature common jack bean (in English).My mother in law confirmed that the leaves and flowers are the same as a picture I found, although the plants she’s seen have darker purple flowers.
At Fahim’s parent’s house in Kurunegala, they have a plot of land behind the house that Fahim’s mom uses as a garden. She has all manner of plants growing in there, including banana plants, papaya plants, a curry leaf tree, and teak trees. Other vegetables come and go as she feels like growing them and the crops get rotated. Along the back fence, a neighbour woman apparently has grown awara, using the fence to support the bean’s vines. The neighbour gave my mother in law permission to pick some of these beans. They are apparently edible when eaten immature, but don’t eat too many as they can be mildly toxic.
I wondered what we would do with this bean thing, and, as it turned out, Fahim’s mom wanted to make it into a mallung. I love mallungs. 😀
Here, the Awara Mallung is shown along with a carrot curry and Tamarind Fish Curry.
- 3-4 cups awara, sliced finely and in half lengthwise
- 5-6 curry leaves, torn
- 2 teaspoons Maldive fish flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 100 grams coconut, freshly shredded
- 4 green chillies
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 t turmeric
- Put the awara, curry leaves, Maldive fish flakes, salt, and water into a pot over medium heat. The water should be not quite covering the awara.
- Simmer until the awara is tender and the water is mostly gone.
- Grind together the coconut, green chillies, garlic, onion, pepper, and turmeric, then add to the awara.
- Stir to combine and cook another couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
If you don’t have curry leaves, omit. There is no substitute.
Maldive fish flakes are flakes of dried tuna. I’ve heard that dried shrimp can be substituted, but have not tried this myself.
It’s possible in some areas to buy freshly shredded or frozen freshly shredded coconut from Asian markets or restaurants. If you don’t have either, you can use desiccated shredded coconut and add some hot water, then allow it to rehydrate. It won’t taste as good, but it’s as close a substitute as there is.
So. The big question. How’d it taste? Not entirely like beans, but pretty close. And it was pretty darn good. 🙂
Have you had jack beans before? If so, how do you prepare them?