Vaal, or lima beans, are a highly prized bean in Gujarati cooking. Vaal nu shaak is considered a “wedding food” and is ubiquitous in Gujarati weddings. The creamy butter beans in this tomato gravy, enhanced with sweet jaggery and sour tamarind, make for an unforgettable flavor combination your family will celebrate.
Lima beans are used all across India and are very popular in Gujarat. In Gujarat, known as a celebratory food. They are served as special occasions, especially weddings.
There are two main sizes of Lima Beans. The larger, Fordnook Lima Beans are a little starchier. You can use either for this recipe, with the Fordnooks be sure to add a couple of minutes to the cooking time to make sure they cook all the way through. I find the look of the larger beans to be a little more dramatic and stunning.
Even though they are so important in Gujarati food, lima beans, (“butter beans” or “vaal”) are from Peru. They may actually be the oldest cultivated crop from America, dating back to 2000 BC. And they were cultivated separately by a different group of people 1200 years later.
About this Shaak
This vaal nu shaak comes from a family recipe. My grandmother made this for many celebrations when I was growing up, as did my mother.
This is also such a ubiquitous Gujarati dish that I had it many times at other houses as well. If you ever go out for a Gujarati thali, don’t be surprised if this shows up on your plate.
In listing out the ingredients, it turns out there are many. The good news is that they are all common ingredients in an Indian pantry. The only thing I had to go out and buy was the lima beans and that is only because I wanted the larger ones for better pictures! Feel free to use whatever you find at your supermarket.
What to Eat It With
Vaal nu shaak is often served as part of a thali, or at weddings as part of a buffet. If you are making a complete meal, you will want to include rotli, rice, some dal and a good dry shaak. Since this is an essential Gujarati dish, I would pair it with another Gujarati shaak, like tindora nu shaak or a potato shaak.
- Lima beans come in different sizes, if you end up with a bigger size, increase the cook time by a minute or two
- Make sure the besan gets cooked, you do not want the raw besan flavor that you get if besan isn’t probably toasted
- You can leave the garlic out if you are not a garlic eater, a lot of people do that
Vaal nu Shaak | Lima Beans Curry
- 1 cup vaal lima beans
- 3 cups water
- ½ cup tomato sauce
- 1 Tbsp dhana jeeru
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 ½ tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp
- ½ cup hot water
- ¼ cup oil + 1 Tbsp
- 1 ½ tsp ajmo carom seed
- ¼ tsp hing asafoetida
- 2 pieces cinnamon (1 inch)
- 3 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 dry red chili
- 1 Tbsp besan gram flour
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger grated
- Salt to taste
- 1 ½ Tbsp jaggery
- Cilantro garnish
- Soak the val (lima beans) overnight (or at least 6 hours). Remove soaking water.
- Add 3 cups water, the val and 1/2 tsp of salt to the Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 20 minute. Follow with natural pressure release. Preserve cooking water.
- Make the tomato paste. In a bowl, mix together tomato sauce, dhana jeeru (1/2 Tbsp cumin powder + 1/2 Tbsp coriander powder), turmeric, red chili powder, and half of the garam masala (about 1/2 tsp). Mix well and set aside.
- Soak the tamarind pulp in 1/2 cup of hot water. Use a fork to mix the water with the tamarind.
- On saute mode of the Instant Pot, heat 1/4 cup of oil. Add ajmo, hing, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and red chili.
- When fragrant, add ginger, garlic and besan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until besan starts to brown. Stir constantly.
- Add tomato paste mixture and deglaze. Cook until oil rises to the top, 1-3 minutes.
- Add val along with its cooking water. Boil 10 minutes.
- Add tamarind water, jaggery and the other half of the garam masala.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.