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Onam Recipes: Olan, Kalan. Pulissery

August 19, 2021 12:55 IST
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With Malayalees across the world celebrating Onam, Anita Aikara brings you three traditional recipes to include in your Sadya.

Prepared with ash gourd and black-eyed peas, Olan is a coconut milk gravy tempered with curry leaves and green chillies.

Pulissery -- like the name suggests (pulli means sour in Malayalam) -- is a sour yogurt-based dish also made with ash gourd.

For Kalan, remember the curd you are using needs to be sour. It is spicy, and the sourness of the curd balances out the dish well.

IMAGE: What a typical Onam spread looks like, above.
Photograph: Anita Aikara/


Serves: 4-5


  • 300 gm ash gourd or white pumpkin, peeled, diced without the seeds
  • 5-6 green chillies, slit
  • 2 tbsp red lobia or red chawli or red gram, soaked in water for about 1 hour or more
  • 100 gm white chawli or black-eyed peas, soaked in water for about 2 hours, drained and boiled
  • 1½ cup coconut milk (if you're using fresh coconut, take 1 cup of second pressed coconut milk and ½ cup of first pressed)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves


  • Heat a heavy-bottomed kadhai over medium heat.
    Heat the coconut oil, green chillies and curry leaves.
    Add the ash gourd along with 1 cup coconut milk.
    Add salt and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    Add the black-eyed peas along with ½ cup coconut milk (ensure it is thick, preferably use first pressed coconut milk).
    Simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat.
    If you simmer for too long, the milk will split.
  • Serve hot along with rice.


Serves: 4-5


  • 2 cups curd or yoghurt, beaten
  • 1 cup sliced ash gourd or white pumpkin
  • 3 garlic pods, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onions, preferably small sambar onions or shallots
  • ½ tsp haldi or turmeric powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds
  • 2 green chillies, slit
  • 2 red chillies
  • ¼ tsp methi or fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • Few curry leaves
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt as per taste


  • In a grinder combine the grated coconut, minced garlic, chopped onions, cumin seeds and green chillies.
    Blend it a fine paste.
    Keep aside.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat add the sliced ash gourd in 3/4 cup water.
    Once cooked, add the ground mixture and beaten curd.
    Add salt, turmeric powder and leave on low heat to simmer.
    Turn off the heat when the mixture comes to a boil and keep aside.
  • In a heavy-bottomed tempering pan, heat coconut oil.
    Add the mustard and fenugreek seeds.
    When the seeds begin to splutter, add the red chillies and curry leaves.
    Take off heat and add the tempering to the Pulissery.
    Serve with rice.


Serves: 4-5


  • 1½ cup suran or yam, sliced into small pieces
  • 1 cup raw banana, sliced into small pieces
  • 5 green chillies, slit
  • 1½ cup sour curd or yoghurt
  • 1 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1 tsp jeera or cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper powder
  • ¼ tsp haldi or turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp powdered or lightly crushed methi or fenugreek seeds
  • 3 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 dried red chillies, split into 2
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp rai or mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as required


  • Heat some water in a saucepan over medium heat.
    Add the cut yam and raw banana. The water should cover the cut vegetables.
    Add the turmeric powder, black pepper and a little salt.
    Cover the saucepan with a lid and let the vegetables cook. 
    If the water dries up, add more water.
  • While vegetables are boiling, combine the grated coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds in a mixer jar and grind to a coarse paste.
    Add little water and grind until you get a smooth paste.
    Keep aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk the curd until smooth.
  • Once the vegetables are cooked, add the coconut paste.
    Make sure there is no water in the pan when you add the coconut paste.
    If there is water, wait for it to evaporate.
    Reduce the heat and mix well.
    Add the curd and mix again.
    If the mixture is very thick, add some water to dilute it.
    Season with salt and bring the curry to a boil.
    Take off heat and keep aside.
  • In a tempering pan, heat the coconut oil.
    Add the fenugreek and mustard seeds and wait for it to crackle.
    Add the red chillies and curry leaves.
    Turn off the heat and pour the tempering into the curry.
    Serve with rice.

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