Beans varai – from Quito

Note: I started this post a few months ago, when we had just arrived in Quito with a commitment to post one new recipe a week. As you can tell, this hasn’t happened and I head back to Australia tomorrow. Oops! I did do lots of writing, learnt basic Spanish, experienced a new country and worked on my photography. So it’s not all bad. Hoping that living with my ammah for a few weeks, will mean more recipes.


When packing for our trip to Ecuador (home for a few months)  I remembered  the essential spices – turmeric, curry powder, fenugreek seeds etc, but didn’t think about measuring toys to aid with documenting new recipes.

I found these scales for about $8 USD at the ‘Super Maxi’ near home. Decided to skip on the measuring cups.


Challenge 2 was freshly grated coconut. We excitedly bought an actual coconut at the local fruit shop, but the task of finding a scraper or finding someone to scrape it for me, seemed too hard (for me). So I settled for grated coconut sold in packets and soaked it in water for a few hours before using it.

I have posted two other varai recipes on My Tamil Kitchen: cabbage varai and a leafy varai. Beans varai follows the same technique – however the use of lime in varai is proving to be controversial. I am been told by a fellow Tamil (who can cook up a storm) that lime is for paal (milk) curries, salads, and curries like kizhangu pirattal, beans uraippu (spicy) curry – but not for a varai.

In both the already posted varai recipes, I have used lime (as approved by my ammah).  For this recipe, I am leaving it out. I will however text my ammah to confirm and update if I need to

The key is to keep the crunch in the beans and the right amount of salt.  Here, in Quito, I find myself eating it inside bread, like a sandwich or eating it with rice, dhal yoghurt and an omlette.  At ammah’s home, it would be one of many curries accompanying rice.


INGREDIENTS (very similar to cabbage varai)
400 grams green beans
5 tsp oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped into squares
3 red chillies, broken into pieces or chopped (can use dried chillies or fresh)
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
1 tsp turmeric powder (ammah would say use 1/2 tsp – but i love turmeric – so use 1 tsp)
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 cup coconut
1-1.5 tsp salt (varies according to different tastes. I love salt, but decided to make it with 1 tsp this time and thought it was pretty good)

1. Cut the beans into 1 cm pieces.  I am pretty impatient – so my pieces are pretty random as you can see from the photo below.
2. In a big mixing bowl – add  beans, turmeric, chilli powder and salt.
3. Heat oli. Fry onion and dried chillies.
4. When onions start to turn golden, add mustard seeds and curry leaves and frying for another minute .
5. Add beans mixture and coconut to frying pan. Fry for about 5 minutes.
6. Turn off stove, cover. Serve when ready.


One thought on “Beans varai – from Quito

  1. Looks delicious. I am cooking for my mixed Tamil kids still Tamil recipes. And I have to commit that I love it even more than them. Could you tell me what makes a Tamil thali complete? We eat vegetarian/vegan. Thank you so much. xx

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