September 25, 2008

Paruppu Usili Recipe - How to Make Usili ( Tamil Brahmin-Style)

Paruppu Usili is a quintessential Tamil Brahmin dish recipe I was unaware of till I met TH. This is his favourite side-dish to go with rice and rasam or kara kozhambu. I have posted this dish once before that was not an 'authentic' recipe. This is straight from my mom-in-law's recipe archive and I make it around once a week.

Paruppu Usili Recipe

The main ingredients are french beans and toor dal but the recipe is flexible enough to accommodate slight changes. Sometimes I use cluster beans instead of french beans and it works just as well. I have even heard some make cabbage usili but haven't tried this out myself. There are also different and healthier options to cook the dal as opposed to the traditional method of drenching it in oil and telling yourself its healthy cuz it has lentils (which translates to lots of proteins, especially for vegetarians).

Paruppu Usili Recipe
Serves 4

French beans - 1 cup, cut into 1" pieces and boiled
Toor dal (tuvaram parippu) - 3/4 cup
Channa dal (kadala parippu) - 2 tbsp
Dried red chillies - 3 to 4
Hing/asafoetida (kayam) - 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Oil - 1 tbsp (depends on the method you use to cook the dal)
Salt - to taste

How I Made It:

1. Wash and soak the toor dal and channa dal (you can put them together) for about 1.5 hours.

2. Once soft, grind this coarsely with red chillies, turmeric, some salt and hing and as little water as possible.

3. The next step is to cook this dal mixture with the beans and we are done. Its really that simple. There are different ways to cook the dal.

(a) Microwave it till almost done, stirring every one minute. It will take about 4 minutes for it to be almost cooked.

(b) Pat the dal mixture with your hand until you have one thick round roti-like disc and then steam it for 3-4 minutes. This won't work if you added too much water while grinding. Not to worry, either follow step (a) or

(c) Pour copious amounts of oil (you need atleast 3-4 tbsp) into a pan and stir-fry the dal mixture. This will take anywhere between 7-10 minutes and is allegedly the tastiest of them all.

I have tried all three methods and found that the steaming method makes the softest and healthiest usili. The microwave version tends to make it a bit dry but its really not that bad at all. The oil-heavy one is the best of course. It has to be, otherwise it defies the rules of healthy cooking and eating.

4. If you already started out in a pan, then just add beans when the dal is almost done and cook for another 4-5 minutes without adding more oil. If you microwaved or steamed the dal, then heat a pan, add 1 tbsp oil and dump in the dal and beans and stir-blend for about 5 minutes. 

Beans Usili goes well with rice and pepper rasam or kara kuzhambu.

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