Cluster beans stir fry / Kothavarangai poriyal – South beach diet phase 1 side

In most vegetarian South Indian homes, lunch is eaten with rice, sambhar (lentil stew with vegetable), rasam (peppery soup made with tomatoes) and one or two vegetable based dishes called poriyals (stir fry) or varuval. Poriyals as it called in my mother tongue is nothing but a dish cooked with basic South Indian spices, onions and little shredded coconuts. For some poriyals, chopped vegetables are steam cooked and a tempering with mustard seeds, white bengal gram, curry leaves, dry red chillies and onions are added and simmered for couple of minutes.  It is one of the easiest dish to whip up and is packed with nutrition as they are cooked al-dente. My son loves different types of poriyals as they are bite-sized and he enjoys eating it as they are soft, mildly spiced and colorful. If you plan to introduce Indian dishes to your kids, poriyals / stir fries will be good starting point. They will love the flavors in it. Certain ingredients like mustard seeds, curry leaves, cumin seeds and asafoetida have medical insignificance too. What you feed becomes their medicine too.

Many of you know about my journey with South beach diet. South Indian stir fries are the most eligible dish to make it to the top list of South beach friendly meals.I make a whole large batch of these stir fries and eat them with rasam during phase 1. Even a lentil based dish called paruppu usili can be made with finely chopped asparagus,beans or cluster beans and that’s another variation to usual poriyals/stir fries. 
Yesterday I started a casual conversation in Facebook asking for my reader’s input. Look below for what I asked for.

Hello all,

I am curious to know about the kind of recipes you would like to see in Spices and Aroma, my blog. I have got emails requesting for few recipes. I am going to plan and post accordingly. Please share what you want to see. Any specific biryani recipe, healthy foods, kid friendly recipes, lunch box ideas or anything else. Pour in your thoughts.Thank you!


One of my good old friend my school, VA had the below reply. We have known each other for from Grade 3 and she is such a great friend. “Healthy veggie rolls, vadais ( baked ones are better), curry or poriyal with different type of vegetables, dhal, pulses and rice varieties.”

Please feel free to give your thoughts in the comment section. I would be really happy to hear about what my readers want to see here.

I planned to write a post for South beach diet phase 1 today and it happened to be a poriyal / stir fry recipe. I am so glad that I could cater to her request right away. I am not too sure whether she could call cluster beans a different type of vegetable as some home cooks known to me cook with it often while many don’t. So let this post be a curtain riser for those of  you who have not explored your cooking repertoire with this beautiful South Asian vegetable.

What are cluster beans?

In India, cluster beans are one of most commonly used vegetable in curries and dhaals. They are green in color and has a narrow, long body with tiny pods inside it. It belongs to the family of beans and has a very similar look except that its outer skin is rough and rigid.  You can find them in Indian grocery store both in fresh and frozen section. You chop off little portion of the head and tail of the vegetable and finely chop them in your desired size. When you find fresh ones, pick the ones that are young and tender. Week old beans will be fibrous and woody which are inedible. So try to bring home fresh looking cluster beans only. I wrap them inside a plastic bag and store it in fridge for upto a week. Even brown sandwich bags will be perfect. Sometimes I cook it right away while some days it will be after 4-5 days after purchase. So storing it well is key to avoid spoilage.Today’s post is a simple South Indian side dish made with a vegetable called cluster beans, also know as kothavarangai in Tamil. I finely chopped the beans and pressure cooked it for 3 whistles. You can cook them in boiling water just like the way you cook pasta / noodles but it will take longer to cook the lentil. The vegetable must be cooked completely and should hold their shape. I am sure you don’t want anything turning mushy while you serve. So cook accordingly. 

I made a simple tempering with mustard seeds, dry red chillies, bengal gram (channa dhaal) and curry leaves. Onions are cooked until crisp and tossed in the beans. Served hot with rice, sambhar or rasam.


Source: My mom
Serves : 2-4


  • 1 pound cluster beans or kothavarangai ( can be found in Indian grocery store near you) 
  • 1/4 cup bengal gram or channa dhal
  • 4 cups water to cook it


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chilly whole (optional to tear and cook) 
  • 1 small onion – finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon fresh or dessicated coconut (unsweetened ones)
  • Salt to taste


Pressure cooker (optional)

I have a non-pressure cooker method as well (Scroll down further)


 Pressure Cooker Method

  1.  Fill the base of the pressure cooker with 2 cups water. Place the chopped vegetable and channa dhal in a stainless steel container and place that container inside the pressure cooker base.
  2. Check whether the gasket is sealed well inside the lid of the pressure cooker. Cover the base and insert the whistle and let it cook for 3-4 whistles. Switch off the flame and let the pressure comedown. Remove the whistle. Drain the excess water through a colander and set aside.
  3. Heat oil. Once hot, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Throw in the dry red chillies, curry leaves and onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric powder and cook for further 2-3 minutes. Mix in the cooked cluster beans and add salt to taste. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes. 
  4. If using fresh coconuts, sprinkle towards the end of cooking. Mix and serve hot. (Add the dry ones along with onions and saute until they absorb little moisture)

 Without a Pressure Cooker Method

  1. Boil 2 cups of water in a kettle or in a pot.  Throw in the chopped cluster beans and cook 3/4th covered for 20 minutes. It is not advisable to cover the lid completely as the water might boil and roll over the vessel and stove.
  2. Heat oil. Once hot, add mustard seeds and let it pop. Throw in the dry red chillies, bengal gram (channa dhaal), curry leaves and onions and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add turmeric powder and cook for further 2-3 minutes. Mix in the cluster beans, dry dessicated coconut and add salt to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes for the flavors to marry. Remove and serve

 Additional notes

  1. Cluster beans stir fry is an ideal main dish for South beach phase 1 (Indian Vegetarian meals ideas). They have good amount of proteins and fibre and fills so up so fast.
  2. Can be eaten in phase 2 and 3 of South beach diet too.
  3. Since cluster beans have low glycemic index, they are an ideal side dish for women with gestational diabetes or those who are diabetic and pre-diabetic
  4. I eat a bowl of this with rasam poured over it after a work out. It’s low calorie and uses very less oil. A perfect food for those who are on a weight loss regime.

Share & Print

0 0 100 0


  1. Indian food is one of my favorites -couldn't live without it. One of things I love most about it is how many dishes and information there is to discover. This stir fry looks scrumptious. Thanks for sharing:)

  2. Hi Vijitha.. came across your Blog through Nisha's post. She was telling a while ago about this South beach diet posts of yours.. Will read all of them in details in some time..

    Glad to follow you, looking forward to related and other posts .. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.