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Saturday, April 24, 2021

Authentic Andhra ~ Beerakaya Pottu Varugu

 (Originally published on 2/20/2011.)

People always ended up with surplus amount of vegetables and fruits when societies were agro-based. They had to come up with ways to not let their hard work go down the drain in the pre-refrigeration era. Sun-drying and pickle making have been two methods of preserving the agricultural bounty in all cultures. Sundried tomatoes, dried mango (amchur), dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) are some of the things that we buy from stores even without thinking. 

Preserving surplus produce by sun drying them has been a common practice through out the world, for ages. In the south Indian state of Andhra, something that has been sun-dried and can be stored year round is called varugu. And in vegetarian homes, "that something" usually happens to be vegetables / vegetable peels / greens / fruits.  

Sun drying does not cost anything and the dried stuff could be stored away for later use. Besides the surplus stuff, the wilted or the mature vegetables that are not fit to go into any dish and also their peels were used to get sun dried and were used later on a rainy day. If a portion of the vegetable was rotten, that was discarded and the rest was sun dried too. Such was the frugality of our ancestors.

Varugu making has somewhat become obsolete in this modern era as everyone has to depend on their local grocers / markets for their supply of produce which is available through out the year unlike the past. Besides the prices of vegetables in India seem to be so high to even try sun drying. However give it a try this summer, if you have a vegetable patch in your backyard or when you get vegetables at bargain prices.
This beerakaya pottu varugu or the spicy, sundried ridge gourd peels is eaten as a side dish to rice. My mother had prepared this beerakaya pottu varugu once when she was visiting us and I have made this later many times. One day my father was casually mentioning how his mother used to prepare varugus with various vegetables when they had extra from their fields. We were preparing something with ridge gourd the next day and she remembered that the peels could be used to prepare varugu. It has become a favorite since and I try to sun dry the ridge gourd peels every summer.

The following quantities are just to give an idea. Use chilies and salt as per your taste.

Ridge gourd peels - 3 cups
Red chilies - 10 to 12
Salt to taste

* Wash the ridge gourd peels and remove any strings if present. They must be clean and fresh. Discard the pieces with any brown spots.
* Slightly crush the ingredients together so that red chillies are ground. Do not add any water while doing so. Traditionally a stone mortar is used for the purpose. ( I pulse them together in a food processor.)
* Sundry them till they turn crisp. It takes 2 - 3 days for me.
* Sore them in an air-tight container.
* Fry the dried peels in hot oil. Serve with rice and ghee.



Priya Suresh said...

Very interesting dish..never heard about this sun dried peels..

kitchen queen said...

wow! nice innovative idea of using ridgegourd peel.

harini-jaya said...

This is something new to me..I know mango varugu and other types but this is interesting too..

Unknown said...

this summer i will make it!...i love it totally!

Priya said...

I've never heard of this dish, but it looks super delicious. I've only made beerakaya thokku pachadi, but this sounds much better.

I think most of our best regional cuisine comes from enterprising home cooks who were just trying to use their produce better.

Latha said...

Waiting for summer to make this. Love it.

Unknown said...

wow, even though I am from Andhra, this is so new for me. Love it.

Pritya said...

Suma, enjoyed reading your writeup, about traditional frugality & their thinking. Great to see a traditional dish being revived. Really clever thinking on the part of our elders. The photos look so fresh - must taste yumm!

Torviewtoronto said...

looks fabulous never had this

Srivalli said...

Wow Suma, this is surely a fantastic post and a great resource to record the ways of our elders! I have seem my elders doing something, though not peels dried, will ask Amma about it...

Narmadha said...

This is such an interesting idea. thanks for sharing traditional recipe which is almost forgotten in this modern times.

Radha said...

I have seen my mom and grandmas making dried veggies. Your recipe using peel is interesting. This year when ridge gourd starts producing in my garden, I will give a try.

Priya Srinivasan - I Camp in My Kitchen said...

Wow this is such a fantastic post suma! So true making vadam and vathals is slowly going out of practice! Though we have ample sun, dont have the space for drying, would love to try this!!!