The route from Bengaluru airport to Whitefield passes through village roads, avoiding city traffic. In recent months, it has become a common sight to find mountains of avarekai (hyacinth beans) stacked up in the village mandis, reminiscent of the avarebele mela I visited on VV Puram food street a few years ago.
Most food stalls on this street pay homage to this beloved bean from Karnataka by creating traditional dishes with the addition of avarebele, such as dose, holige, masala vade and kodubale. They also experiment with unusual dishes like pani puri, jalebi, chikki and gulab jamun. This year, the mela was over at the National College Grounds in Basavanagudi.
Now Oota, the fine-dining restaurant in Whitefield, is showcasing avarekalu in a 10-day festival, till 26 February. The restaurant’s menu focuses on authentic Karnataka cuisine, with knowledge and recipes gathered from kitchens all over the state.
The bean comes with its own specific nomenclature system. The entire bean (pod) is called avarekai, the shelled whole beans are called avarekalu, the halved shelled beans are called avarebele, and when the outer layer of the shelled beans is peeled off, it is called hitikbele. The characteristic aroma associated with these beans is called sogadu.
Oota’s avarekalu festival menu features a variety of dishes curated by chef Mandaar Sukhtankar and team. Enjoy starters like avarekalu masala (deep-fried crunchy avarebele, green moong sprouts, raw mango, carrot and coconut) and avarekalu vada (spiced chana dal and avarekalu fritters). In contrast to these crunchy dishes, the avarebele akki roti, with its melt-in-mouth soft texture and neon green specks of the bean, is perfect to mop up the two kinds of saaru. A vegetarian version (avarekalu with tomato, coconut, red chillies and poppy seeds) and avarekalu koli saaru (chicken cooked with avarekalu, grated coconut, green chillies, coriander leaves and garam masala). Avarekalu usli is a delicately flavoured dry preparation with mustard, onions, green chillies and a generous garnish of coconut.
Ajit Bhaskar, a researcher at a multinational and a food columnist whose Bengaluru street food walks are wildly popular, shares his favourite avarebele dishes. “Avarekalu goes superbly in chikkis and also as a filling in pani puris. When cooked and mashed, its texture is creamy, making it surprisingly good as a filling in obbattu. There’s an avarebele ice cream that’s newly introduced to the variety of street food dishes, and I would love to give it a try.”
The incredible range of avarebele dishes in Bengaluru is a celebration of the city’s local cuisine and the opportunity to make the most of the fleeting avarekalu season, which peaks during the winter months.