Warm Hyacinth Bean Salad

Warm hyacinth bean salad
A salad of hyacinth beans with chilli-infused mustard oil and garden flowers

I was away for a week visiting family and relatives. The place where I grew up and where my mother lives, is a pretty town about 300 kms from Guwahati. But before I left, I had a minor accident. My tomato plants needed to be staked so instead of using freshly-cut bamboo, I used the old stakes that I pulled out from other plants. As I applied some pressure while doing the needful, the bamboo broke and I lost my balance. In the process my right cheek landed on the stake that was closer to me. It was bad but I didn’t need any stitches. With prompt medication the pain lasted for only about an hour. For the next six days I had this large black spot and I had to repeat how it happened to everybody I met!! It’s healed now but this bad experience has made me wiser. I’ll never be using old bamboo stakes again if they are not sturdy enough.

Yesterday’s harvest of hyacinth beans

I am growing two varieties of hyacinth beans this year. Both the vines are doing well. It’s a common sight in many home gardens during this time of the year. The purple blooms (some varieties have white or cream-coloured ones) attract a lot of bees. These beans are also known as lablab/Dolichos lablab.
We usually have them in chutney with fermented fish or in khari. We also add them to fish curry and in dried fish recipes. Tender beans are fried or mixed into vegetable dishes.
The salad that I made goes really well with tender French beans. But with such lovely produce from my backyard I thought it would be a good idea to adapt that recipe with these beans by adding ingredients that are popular in our part of the world.
About 30 tender beans
Salt to taste
A quarter tsp of coarsely grated pepper
1 tsp of chilli-infused mustard oil or according to taste
Bean blossoms, nasturtium flowers/leaves and brassica blooms for the garnish 
Herbs of your choice (optional)

Top and tail the beans and string them. Set aside.
Heat about 3-4 cups of water. When it comes to the boil, add the beans.
Add salt and let the beans cook for about 5 minutes or till tender but not too soft.
Hyacinth beans take a little longer than French beans. Drain the cooked beans in a colander.
Arrange the drained beans on a serving platter. Sprinkle the grated pepper all across.
Drizzle the oil over the beans and arrange the blooms and the leaves on the salad.
This is indeed a lovely salad despite being so simple to make. Fresh vegetables have their own natural sweetness and the slight heat from the oil strikes a fine balance. As for the visual appeal…what are flowers for? This salad will serve 3-4 people. I keep small quantities of chilli-infused olive as well as mustard oil. The simplest pickle of bird’s eye chillies in mustard oil is very popular in our region. A bit of a drizzle over mashed potatoes takes the dish to another level.

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