Sunday, February 20, 2011

Olan (of Kerala)

Olan is a very simple recipe that's spiced with just green chillies and gets its unique flavor from coconut milk and coconut oil. Well, can you expect a Keralite dish without coconut in it? It's the Land of Coconut trees, after all!


This recipe is from my ammamma (mom's mom), passed on to my mom. Though we lived in Madras, my mom makes these typical Kerala vegetarian fare quite periodically since my dad loves them.

Special thanks to Shobana chithi (mom's sister) for proof-reading my recipe and pointing out corrections so that the recipe remains truly traditional.

What She Used -



  • Yellow Pumpkin, Winter melon ( mathan or kumblangai), Zucchini , Old cucumber or any water vegetable - 1 cup or more
  • Red Chori (perumpayar) - 1/2 cup (I did not have this)
  • Black eyed beans or Cow peas (a type of karamani, see picture above) - 1/2 cup
    • Alternatively, use one cup of one variety of the beans, whichever is available.
  • Colocasia (Cheppan kizhangu or Seppan kizhangu ) - 10 to12 pieces, sliced as circles
  • Capsicum - 1/2, sliced
  • Baby Brinjals - 7-8 pieces, sliced into circles (optional, I skipped this)
  • Long beans, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • Coconut/ 3 grades of Coconut milk*  (See Note below)

To Temper -

Coconut Oil- 3 tbsp
Curry leaves - a few (optional)
Green chillies - 4
Salt - 1 tsp


How She Makes It-


  • Pressure-cook the black eyed beans with a little salt. Usually, you may not have to soak them before-hand.
  • Pressure-cook colocasia. Peel off the skin and make sure there is clean from any dirt or mud.

  • Take a kadai, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil, ear and throw some curry leaves into it. We do not use mustard in this recipe.
  • Slit green chillies along its length and add them.
  • Add the cut ash gourd or any water vegetable and cook them with minimal water.
  • Now, add the cooked beans and colocasia, brinjal, etc.
  • Add required salt.
  • Now is the time to add coconut milk. The 3rd grade milk goes in first. Let boil for 3 minutes, then add 2nd grade milk. Let boil for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Squeeze 2 tbsp of coconut oil and mix well. I always use coconut oil in Kerala dishes to get that authentic taste.
  • Finally, add the 1st grade thick coconut milk and switch off after a minute or less.

We had olan with white rice and upperi (banana chips) for dinner and it tastes just awesome. The best part is that I had to spend less than 30 minutes in the kitchen!


*To get 3 grades of coconut milk - Blend a cup of coconut with some water in a mixie, squeeze off the coconut, filter the liquid, this is thick coconut milk you get. This is called the 1st grade milk. Reuse the coconut, add water again and blend. Repeat the process to get 2nd grade and 3rd grade milk. Obviously, the first milk is the thickest and subsequently the richness reduces and the third milk would be kinda watery with just coconut flavor.

Note: If you're using store-bought coconut milk directly, then you may dilute it to get the equivalents of the 3 grades.


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