Avial (Malayalam: wikt:അവിയല്; Tamil: அவியல், pronounced [aʋijal]) is a dish that is common in Kerala as well as Tamil cuisine and Udupi cuisine. It is a thick mixture of vegetables and coconut, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. Avial is considered an essential part of the Sadya, the Keralite vegetarian feast.
Vegetables commonly used in avial are elephant yam, plantain, pumpkin, carrots, beans, Brinjal,cucumber, drum sticks, snake gourd and avarai. Carrots, beans etc. are recent introduction, while the north Keralan Avial includes bitter gourd also. Some people prefer to skip curd or substitute it with raw mango or tamarind pulp. This dish can be made into a gravy or be made into a semi-solid side dish. It is generally eaten with rice. The word "avial" is also used to denote 'boiled' or 'cooked in water' —this sense being derived from the way the dish is made.
It is supposed to have been invented by Bhima (one of the Pandava brothers) during their exile. According to the legend, when Ballav (Bhima's name during this time) assumed his duties as the cook in the kitchen of Virata, he did not know how to cook. One of the first things he did was to chop up many different vegetables, boil them together and top the dish with grated coconut. There are mythological variations. Bheema is said to have prepared Avial, when there were unexpected guests for King Virata and he needed to serve meals for them. There was no sufficient vegetables to cook any single recipe for side dish, so Bheema used what ever available vegetables to make a new dish, which came to know as Avial.
Another narrative version relates to the attempt made by Kauravas to kill Bhima. After poisoning Bhima, Kauravas tied Bhima and threw him to water. Kauravas also communicated that they saw Bhima drowning in water. With the completion of the days of mourning, a funeral feast was planned and preparation were underway. Unexpectedly, Bhima emerged from the water, rescued by the Nagas. With this, preparations for the feast was cancelled. However, Bhima was unhappy with this decision, and decided to mix all of the vegetables to prepare a new dish, that later became popular as Avial.