Indian Cluster Beans (Gawar Ki Phalli Recipe)
Cluster beans, also known as guar beans or cyamopsis tetragonolobus, are legumes that are very popular throughout India. They resemble flattened green beans and have an extremely hardy and crunchy texture, and they're usually cooked into a curry.
This version, gawar ki phalli (sometimes called gavar ki sabji) is cooked in sesame paste and curry leaves. It's one of the healthiest Indian dishes you can make because these beans are very low in calories. My husband Lulu's family is from Hyderabad and this bean dish was Lulu's paternal grandma Baji's specialty. Making this dish is quite labor-intensive because the beans need to be stringed and chopped. But the result is definitely worth the effort. Whenever I find very fresh cluster beans at the Indian market (blemish-free, green and relatively tender), I cook them right away as they don't store well in the refrigerator.
Note: Glossary of relevant Indian / Urdu cooking terms.
Gawar, gavar = cluster
Ki = of
Phalli = beans
Sabji, sabzi = greens, vegetables
Yields: 6 servings1 pound cluster beans
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon red chili powder
2 teaspoons vegetable curry mix (masala), optional
2-½ tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (see tips)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 Serrano green chile peppers, cut into thirds
10 fresh curry leaves, torn in half
Prepping cluster beans: Pick out and discard any badly-shaped or blemished cluster beans and wash them. Boil them for about 3-5 minutes in water, reduce the heat to low, then add ¼ teaspoon turmeric and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Don't over-cook the beans; they shouldn't be too soft. Transfer to an ice bath. Drain thoroughly of all water, then pat dry on paper towels. Trim the ends of the beans and remove the strings. Cut them into ½" pieces .
Dry toasting sesame seeds: In a small pan, dry toast the sesame seeds for about 2 minutes until slightly golden. Transfer to a plate to prevent them from turning more golden (or burnt!). Allow to cool completely.
Making sesame powder: Grind the sesame seeds in a blender or a grinder (I use a coffee grinder that I keep exclusively for spices). The sesame seeds should turn into a fine mill, but make sure you stop before it becomes tahini butter. Once the water is added while cooking the beans, the sesame will turn into a paste.
Assembly time: In a deep saucepan, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, ginger garlic paste, curry leaves, red chili powder and remaining turmeric powder. Stir well until fragrant. Add the chopped beans, Serrano peppers and vegetable curry mix (if used). Season with salt. Toss until well coated. Add a little water (about ½ cup). Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to low. Add sesame paste, cover with a lid and cook for about 8-10 minutes; add more water if necessary (up to 1 cup). Check the seasoning. Add more salt (if necessary). The liquid should have evaporated.
Serve warm with roti (Indian flat bread) or basmati rice.
I like to add vegetable curry mix to the sesame paste for added flavor. The masala mix is made of red chili powder, fenugreek seeds, ginger garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and clove. When you're at the Indian market, look for the Shan brand.
Little reminder on how to make ginger garlic paste: Just clean one large chunk of ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
Did you know that guar gum, a common food additive, is made with dried seeds from cluster beans, ground into a fine powder? It is used as a thickening agent (much stronger than corn starch or tapioca starch) in products such as yogurt, ice cream and chewing gum.Published By: on October 5, 2010.