Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Recipe request: Vaalache Bhirde

Suma B., a reader, mailed me a few weeks ago. She had tasted a typical Marathi dish somewhere and loved it and was looking for a recipe for it. Well, it turns out that I love this dish too, so I'm only too happy to share the recipe here. What is the dish? A creamy coconut-based curry made with sprouts of a dal called either vaal or dalimbay, and the preparation is called a bhirde making it either vaalache bhirde or dalimbyache bhirde (quite a mouthful if you don't speak Marathi)!

This curry has a special place in my heart because I associate it with my aji (grandma) in Bombay who makes a delicious vaalache bhirde. It is a truly exceptional dish because it captures five flavors of food in one single spoonful: the spicy heat from chillies, sweetness from jaggery, a tangy note from tamarind, a hint of bitterness that is natural to the vaal; all bound together with a touch of salt. Add to that the creamy deliciousness of coconut and you have yourself a winner!

To make the bhirde, you have to start a couple of days ahead to allow time for spouting. I had talked about the vaal-sprouting process in this post, but will repeat some of it here:
(a) Take dried vaal. These beans are often sold in Indian and international stores under the name "Surti Val" (I spell it "vaal" because I think that is a more accurate transliteration of the word).
(b) Soak vaal in plenty of warm water overnight (8-12 hours): they will swell up.
(c) Drain and place in a colander, covered with a damp cheesecloth. In 36-48 hours, the vaal will sprout.
(d) Peel the sprouts by placing them in warm water; the peel should pop right off. Discard any beans that are discolored.

Peeling the sprouts is a necessary step and can be a little labor-intensive. I personally don't mind doing this task when I am relaxing on the couch watching TV or chatting with friends. Putting the curry together is a snap once the sprouts are peeled and the result is worth all the time spent!

Vaalache Bhirde

1. Take 1 and and half cups of vaal beans and soak, sprout and peel them as above. Set aside.
2. Soak 1 heaping tsp tamarind in 1/4 cup hot water to extract the juice (if you use tamarind paste, it does not need to be soaked).
2. Make a coconut paste as follows: In 1 tbsp oil, fry 1 large onion cut in large chunks until slightly browned. Add 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, and 1 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut and 1-3 (more or less, depending of hotness desired) fresh or frozen green or red chilies. Stir around until coconut is fragrant, then blend to a fine paste using a little water as required.
3. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Temper the oil with 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, 5-6 curry leaves. Add 1 small onion, minced finely and fry it for a few seconds. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and salt to taste.
4. Add the peeled sprouts and stir well. Add 1/2 cup water, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are just tender.
5. Add the coconut paste, tamarind extract and 1 heaping tsp of jaggery. Add some water if the curry looks too thick. Simmer the curry for 10 minutes. Taste for the balance of flavors and add a little more tamarind/jaggery/salt if required.
6. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or rotis.

This curry really brings back the taste of home! To make a delicious pilaf with the same vaal beans, try making this dalimbay bhaat.


  1. When we used to stay in a predominantly Maharashtrian colony with Wadke, Gupte maushis nearby my mom learnt how to make valache birde...this is exactly the recipe I follow. I loooove the bitter taste of val :-)

  2. wow .....that looked great.tastes great too.i,ll definitely show this post to aji. she,ll be only too thrilled to see it.luv, yoma.

  3. Hey,
    I think we make the same thing..it's just that we call it..Dalimbi usal..I love it

  4. The dish looks yummy Nupur, I would love to try this one at home. Are they labeled as 'Vaal' in the Indian store too or is there a another name I could look for ??
    The dalimbay bhaat looks really comforting too. yummm

  5. Thank you so much for sharing such a unique recipe! I love experimenting with sprouting and have never had vaal so will have to give this a try!

  6. Hi Nupur, this looks delicious -- what a lovely golden color! I have some split val, but now have a great excuse to get the whole :) Thanks for sharing this -- a real must for me to try.

  7. Hi Nupur,
    My blog has been dead/dormant for a long time now, but I am really happy with the spurt of activity on yours...I love the sound of this recipe, and cannot wait to try it out. Your egg rassa, usal/misal and your version of pav-bhaji are staples in my repertoire now...I can see the valaache bhirde joining that list.

    Stay happy!

  8. Hi Nupur,

    Thanks a ton for this lovely recipe. I enjoyed it with nice steamed rice today!! yummyyyy....

  9. Ashwini, me too :)

    Yoma, please do show it to aji, and give her my love!

    Swapna, yes, usal is a very similar preparation :)

    Priya, thanks for the question! I found it sold as "Surti val". I have edited the post to clarify that.

    Bazu, I think you will love the vaal once you try them!

    Linda, never have used the split val...what do you make with them?

    AA, thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I finally have some time to blog :) Thanks for trying so many of the recipes. I promise you, this one is very tasty.

    Suma, glad you enjoyed it!

  10. Yummy recipe.I am going to try this soon.Thank you for sharing.

  11. Hi Nupur,

    Looks quite yummy....will surely try this one....
    My day is not complete without visiting your blog....I visit your blog almost daily and get more and more tasty surprises with homely touch!
    Keep it up!

  12. Nupur,
    When do you add the tamarind extract to the dish? I am assuming with the sprouts, right?


  13. Hi Nupur,

    This is totally unrelated, but I tried the sabudana khichdi, and it tasted great! I just had to let you know.

    My memories of this dish go back to primary school days, when we lived in Nashik. My mother used a steel hand grinder to make peanut powder. I have been looking for a recipe for quite some time, and I am so happy to find this.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  14. Hi Durga, let me know if it works!

    AKS, thanks for all the encouragement :)

    KM, oops! Thanks for catching that omission in the recipe. I add it with the paste, but you can certainly add it with the sprouts...will edit the recipe right now.

    Hi Anu, thanks for letting me know! I'm so glad you enjoyed the khichdi and that it brought back some good ol' memories :)

  15. Hi Nupur,

    A very delicious and healthy recipe.... would love to try it soon....

  16. That looks divine! Yum! Thanks for the step-by-step on the sprouting process. Another recipe I must add to my to-make list :)

  17. Hi
    Lovely presenatation of the curry with rice. This recipe is absolutely new to me. Thanks for sharing such authentic Maharashtrian recipe here.
    Chk here for a thread on Maharashtrian dishes:

  18. Vaalachee Usal is one of my all time favorite disches. Unfortunately, I have been very lazy and avoided cooking it since peeling the beans is very time consuming. May be I will just bite the bullet one of these days!

  19. Hi,

    I am a regular visitor of youor blog. Your recipes r real yummy. The picture is really mouthwatering. Hey do you know Kadave Vaal? I want to know do we get Kadave Vaal in US? What are they call in English? Waiting for your reply. Thanks in advance

  20. Sujata, I always thought that kadve vaal were the same as these. If they are different then I have no idea if you can find them in the US or what they are called.

  21. Hello Nupur,

    I have succesfully made your dalimbay bhaat and vaalachi bhirde with the val beans that I found at the Indian store. Had it not been for your posts I would have never known that they existed. They are a real find, now I know what I would have missed. What a taste and aroma these beans have once cooked. I owe it all to you, thanks a million.

    Also I think this bean is the hyacinth bean. So I planting a few beans this spring. Thanks.

  22. thanks for posting this recipe Nupur. I am a Goan and this hit came in handy. I wasn't sure whether onion/garlic was included and would go with the dish or not. Perhaps 'cause i remember the version that was done on strict vegetarian days.

    the recipe and accompanying photograph calmed my apprehensions.

    i dont have the curry leaves but am sure the dish will be edible



  23. Hi Nupur, I have promised my husband's childhood friend to cook Vaalche Bhirde when he is visiting us this month. However, I could not find whole vaal in my Indian grocery store - just found the split ones that you used in the vaal kichdi. Do you think I can make Bhirde with the split vaal? Please let me know.
    Thanks, Rehana

    1. Rehana- I've never made this recipe with split vaal. However, I am sure the taste will be great even with split vaal. What might happen is that the vaal might break down (turn mushy and not hold their shape) so when cooking you might want to be careful and turn off heat when the vaal are tender. Good luck and leave a note with your results so we can learn from your experience!

    2. Sure Nupur :)
      I am planning to make a full Maharashtrian meal inspired by your A-Z recipes. Will keep you posted on the bhirde.

  24. nice. So, is this lima beans?

  25. Tried the recipe for Ganesh chaturthi.. It tasted so good.. Keep up the good work.


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