Friday, September 8, 2017

Kaalan (Kerala Non-Dairy "Yogurt" Coconut Curry - Onam Special)

Kaalan is a classic Kerala stew similar to Mor Kuzhambu. It is a must for the elaborate banquets during Onam celebrations; since there are a whole smorgasbord or dishes, usually a small amout of each is served as part of the banquet called "sadya". I have made it vegan so no-one has to miss having it for Onam or any other time that one has a hankering for it. The addition of tofu gives it the traditional look and mouth feel of regular yogurt.

Kaalan tastes better after having time to meld all the flavors.  It will last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. So I make a large pot since leftover Kaalan lasts for days and is also delicious served with Dosa, Idli, Upma, etc.

Traditional Kaalan vegetables are the original Indian Yam called Chenai and green, unripe plantains. It may be prepared with green mango, Taro root, winter melon (ash gourd), Indian drumsticks (moringa pods) etc also; when made with many veggies, it is called Rasa Kaalan or tasty Kaalan.

If you like to avoid soy, omit the tofu and increase the amount of coconut to 1 cup plus add 1 cup of Coconut Milk.

About 8-10 Servings


1 large Firm Green Plantain And/Or 2 cups Indian True Yam (Chenai)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1 Stem Curry leaves
1-2 Lemons/Limes

Grind Together:
1 block (14 oz) Tofu
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
1 tsp Black pepper
1 pinch Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 stem Curry Leaves, including the stem
1 or 2 Hot Green Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Red Chile
1 tsp uncooked rice


1-2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies, broken into two
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, minced


Choose your favorite vegetables from the suggestions above.

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut the plantain into half or quarters lengthwise and then crosswise into large chunks. Cut chenai into 1" chunks.

Place the prepared vegetables in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1/2 cup of water, curry leaves, the salt, and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender.

While the veggies are cooking, tip the drained tofu into the blender carafe along with the coconut, pepper, cumin, chiles, curry leaves, and rice; process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (up to 1/2 cup).

Tip the coconut puree into the cooked veggies; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add just enough water to get a pretty thick stew; Kaalan should be thick but not solid.

Simmer gently without covering, for about 15-20 minutes; it should thicken and slightly reduce in volume. Remove from heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and do the thalippu: add mustard and the red chilies. When the seeds start to pop, add fenugreek seeds, then the curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Kaalan. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Kaalan should be tangy but not too sour.

Serve hot/warm or at room temperature with rice. Enjoy!!

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