Cluster beans, are a flatter variety of French beans. Commonly used in vegetable and lentil (dal) preparations, they are slightly bitter to taste but a great source of fiber, protein and other nutrients. I wasn’t a big fan of this vegetable when I was growing up (the taste and flavor were not very appealing back then and my palate was very limited), but I enjoy this bean occasionally now, especially when it is cooked this way.
In Telugu (one of the South Indian languages) this bean is called Goru (nail) Chikkudukaya (bean) with specific reference to how the bean is prepped for any dish it goes into. This is the one part I do not really enjoy- it is sort of painstaking. Using fingers and nails, each bean is snipped at the edge first and then snipped into small pieces, pulling out the string like side of the bean as you go along. The ‘string’ on the sides is tough and gets into the teeth. My mom does this prep while she’s watching TV, so she has something to distract her, while going through this process. 🙂
Other ingredients of this recipe are mainly ginger and coconut which are blended along with green chili peppers that create the core flavor of this dish. Seasoning ingredients include curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, mustard and cumin seeds. Onions bring in a slight sweetness and flavor of their own, which blends very well with the rest of the ingredients.
While I’ve cooked this dish in Instant Pot (IP) where beans are softened in the end, the traditional way is to steam the beans separately in a rice cooker (or a pressure cooker), drain the water and set them aside. They get added in the end, once the other ingredients are cooked and ready. Other than that, the process is very similar.
If you love vegetable-coconut based sautéed dishes, then do try out our Snake Gourd Coconut Sauté, or Carrot, Bean, Coconut Sauté. For dishes with the amazing taste of ginger, you will surely love the Broad Bean Eggplant Sauté, or the Romaine-Ginger Smoothie.
A tid-bit: While researching this vegetable, I read something interesting. The seeds of the cluster bean (which is also called guar bean) contain a large endosperm. This endosperm consists of polymers which is water-soluble and exhibits a viscosifying effect in water. This is where guar gum is made from! Guar gum has a multitude of different applications in food products, industrial products, and extractive industry. You may have noticed this a part of the ingredient list in several packaged foods that you purchase.
Cluster beans lower your LDL, or bad cholesterol levels thereby improving your heart health and lowering the risk of a heart attack. They also contain fiber, folic acid and potassium, which prevent heart complications. The iron in these beans increases your body’s hemoglobin production and allows your blood to carry more oxygen around the body. In addition to this, cluster beans have a low glycemic index, so they can safely be eaten by diabetics.