|A new (to us) string bean curry masterpiece, with plain basmati rice, chapati bread, moong dal and a green salad.|
Favorite curry of the moment is quite a proclamation from such serious Indian cuisine devotees as Cafe Drake HRV. Yes, this string bean curry is THAT good, so good we serve it with Western and South Asian meals alike. The versatility of the sophisticated spiced beans further enhances their value in your recipe repertoire - these scene stealers can co-star alongside rice and bread, with fish or poultry, even stuffed inside samosas, spring rolls or filo packets.
We've adapted the recipe, with only scant revision, from Raghavan Iyer's bible of subcontinental cuisine, 660 Curries.
Begin by prepping 1 lb. of green beans a/k/a string beans: trim the tails off each end as usual and then slices the beans in to 1/2" pieces. The process is somewhat time-consuming but can be meditative, and the small shapes offer the reward, beyond novel presentation, of absorbing maximum flavor from the sauce.
Now that's over with, heat 2 T. vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot add 1 t. black mustard seeds to the skillet, cover with a lid and wait for the seeds to pop. Once they've just finished popping add 1 T. urad dal (found in all Indian markets). Cook until the dal (a tiny, split white lentil) turns golden brown, about 20 seconds. At once, add 1 sliced onion, 2-3 serrano or Indian hot green chilies (cut into the same size and shape as the green beans), 1/2 t. mustard powder and 1 heaping T. dried fenugreek leaves. Stir constantly for 30 seconds.
Throw in the green beans, 15 curry leaves (straight from the freezer or fresh, matters not) and 2 t. salt. Don't balk at the amount of sodium in the dish; it should be eaten with plenty of less salty accompaniments such as rice or bread. Stir fry everything for a minute before pouring in 1 cup of water. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes, until the green beans are quite tender. Stir now and then and if needed, add a small amount of additional water to prevent sticking.
When the beans are cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool a few minutes before serving warm. Just before serving toss the beans well with a handful of thinly slivered raw onion. Spritz with lemon or lime juice, stir again and serve.
Note: If you don't have urad dal in your pantry, leave it out but add to your shopping list for future preparations of this curry. You'll be making it again. And again. The dried fenugreek leaves could be swapped out for 1/2 t. fenugreek seeds but as the seeds tend to burn easily, and render entire dishes inedible with their bitter burnt flavor, proceed carefully. The curry leaves are non-negotiable. You must use them. We buy several bags at a time from Indian markets and then freeze them in zip-lock bags. They can be used directly from the freezer and lose none of their heavenly aroma or taste for up to a year frozen.