Learning Kerala food- Kaalan.



I have never had a curry made out of ripe plantains. When I saw a recipe using ripe bananas, I was skeptical and almost repulsed at the idea. But when I finally mustered courage to make it, Satish had already eaten the one ripe plantain that we had as his breakfast. So the recipe was forgotten. Then LG posted a fabulous recipe for the same.

Couple of days ago I finally made this. It tasted so wonderful with rice. It tasted even better the next day. I wasnot sure how this is supposed to taste after I had made it, but S declared that it was perfect. I was overjoyed at the fact that this Kerala dish was finally mastered by me. One more dish under the belt for Onam this year.

Recipe and method:

One ripe plantain , peeled and cubed.

To the diced plantain, add 6 green chillies (slit lengthwise), 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp. chilly powder, half cup water and about 1/2 tsp.salt. Cook on low flame until the plantains are soft and the water is almost evaporated.


In a blender, grind till silky smooth a cup of freshly grated coconut and 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds. Add this to the cooked plantain.

Gently crush the plantain while mixing the coconut paste. On low heat, let the mixture come to a slow boil.

At this stage add about 2-3 cups of mooru ( yogurt made lighter by adding water and mixing well to make it to a more flowing consistency) . Continue to cook on low flame, stirring continously till the mixture attains a thick consistency.

Remove from fire and let it cool. You might need to stir it after removing from fire for some more time to prevent curdling of the mixture. Once slightly cooled, add 1/2 tsp. of fenugreek powder.

In a seperate pan, heat about 1.5 tbsp of coconut oil, crack a tsp of mustard seeds. To this add a couple of sprigs of curry leaves and dried green chillies. Remove from fire after a minute on the fire and add it to the kaalan. Add more salt if needed to suit your taste. Stir well and serve.

I have always dreamed about making a traditional Onam lunch (Onasadya). As a kid my mother made a few of the traditional dishes but never the whole parade. I remember promising her all my help in the kichen on the day of Onam, but after one hour of prepwork I would be tired and drift off. She would then have to slave by herself in the kitchen to make the rest of the meal. This happened too often that my family soon learnt not to take too seriously my offer for help in the kitchen.

After reading Annita’s post today and looking at that sumptous meal, I am determined mone than ever to learn more of the traditional Kerala dishes.I had this with rice and some fish. Oh man! It was so good and so proud to learn this new dish! This sure is a good start.

Recipe source: Mrs. K. M. Mathew ( Lalitha pachakam)

30 responses »

  1. I am absolutely sure that you mastered Kalan in just one try, photo looks so authentic. Nice step by step photos, i especially loved the one with evrything cut and raw

  2. Thanks Archana,I was so glad when it turned out good. That is my favorite pic too…I often find that I dont know any of the traditional dishes and that is something I am trying to rectify.

    Thanu, ethekka appam is my favorite too. Doesnt make it very often due to all the frying involved. Try the kaalan if you have time. We used to look forward to dinner when the kaalan was still in the fridge.

  3. Slurp! Slurp! It looks fantastic. Yes kaalan is good the next day actually. I actually cook the plantains in buttermilk first before adding coconut. Thats how Hindus cook kaalan I have heard.

  4. Lg, Is it really? I will try it that way next time..Hindus are the authority when it comes to these kinds of veg. fare.Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. Hi giniann,

    I thought kaalan was made with raw plantains. However, this is a nice twist to the recipe. Looks yummy!!

    AJ, they might be made with raw plantains too.I am not sure of that. I too felt strange using the ripe plantains as a curry. 

  6. Mmmm this looks delicious. I am very jealous as there is a bit of a banana famine (due to a cyclone up north) in Australia at the moment and bananas are ridiculously expensive. I can’t wait until next summer when I have to try out all the awesome banana recipes I have seen lately including this one!

    At the grocery store ripe plantains are some of the least expensive items..probably because the majority of the population do not use it. Hope you get to try it next summer with a bountiful crop.

  7. Hi Giniann — this looks fantastic!! The photos are wonderful too, can almost smell that delicious dinner. What have you served with it in the first photo.. rice and some sort of greens? Looks like a great combination.

    Yeah it is kale mixed with some coconut( recipe here) . It was a great combo. Thanks Linda. 

    • hai,it was nice by seeing all these pictures.it will be a special experience for students staying @ hostel and who really misses his/her homely food.

  8. Kerala—God’s own country!!!!
    Situated in the Southern tip of the Indian Sub continent emerging from the Arabian Sea to its West, the 500-2700 m high thick forests of the Western ghats to its East decorated with 44 rivers and their numerous tributaries which facilitate water to the fertile landscape of Kerala. With its most expressive tropical climate, a long shoreline marked with exotic and serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations, exotic wild life, waterfalls, sprawling plantations, paddy fields, experienced traditional Ayurvedic Health centers, enchanting art forms, diverse cultural and traditional history and historical monuments, exotic cuisines which differs from seafood to vegetarian to spicy to meat to game to moplah… Kerala offers innumerable choices for any tastes for a memorable vacation.
    It stretches along the coast of the Arabian Sea and is separated from the rest of the sub continent by the steep Western Ghats. The state lies between 80 18 ‘ and 120 48 ‘ north latitude and 740 52′ and 770 22’ east longitude. The breadth of the state varies from 32 kms in the extreme north and south to over 120 kms in the middle.
    This is a site to provide details on all locations of Kerala from a traveler’s point of view by a local traveler who is born and brought up in Kerala and who loves Kerala to those who want to experience the simple earthy to the most sophisticated Kerala. The details will be furnished on a daily basis depending upon the places I visit during these coming months when I am traveling throughout Kerala on a cycle to get to know the intricacies of the regions other than the ones I was brought up in. Anyone who requires any assistance in traveling to Kerala can feel free to contact me through mail or my phone numbers as given below:
    anupthankan@yahoo.com. I am a chef specialised in indian food including kerala

  9. Hey,
    This thing is urging the adventurous half of me to try it right away. It would be my first Indian dish though, lets see how well i do.

    Nice blog, though!

  10. Wow.You are making me hungry.Hey how do you get so many comments?:/

  11. hi gini,
    your wordpress blog looks beautiful. i was going through all the earlier posts as i had missed out on some. the ‘kalan,’ looks fantastic. but, this is called ‘pazhappulissery.’ ‘kaalan,’ is usually made with ‘chena,’ and/or raw plantain. ‘kaalan’ is also made into ‘kurukku kaalan,’ using the technique of ‘kurukkal,’ which means the whole water content of the curry is made to evaporate. it is an elaborate process, but kurukku kaalan, prepared ideally, could be stored for some time.
    the same dish can be made with ‘chembu,’ ‘kumbalanga,’ and ‘vellarikka,’ and mangoes. but then, the name becomes, just ‘morozhichu koottan !’ or, in our language, ‘morozhichoottan !!!’
    i don’t know if any namboothiri-s are reading this blog, but ‘morozhichoottan,’ was almost a staple in most of the namboothiri households, during the days before the advent of sambar. i have a friend, (a namboothiri woman), who hates even the sight or smell of this curry, or even curd or buttermilk ! overdose, overdose !!

  12. hi gini,
    forgot to add something. next time, try adding fenugreek to the varavu. all buttermilk curries taste better with fenugreek.
    and, moru is not yogurt made lighter. it is the curd from which butter is completely removed after churning. you can churn curd with an ordinary mixie, something i have almost perfected ! just put the curd straight from the refrigerator into the largest bowl. use the whip blade, if your mixie has one. i have a philips mixie, and it has one. add some cold water, room temperature. run on the lowest speed for 2 – 3 minutes. i usually leave it on till i wash the container in which the curd was stored. then, leave the bowl, and go about any other business. leave it for even one – two hours. But, in kerala, the hot climate some times makes the buttermilk more sour. then, open the bowl, carefully remove the butter that would appear frothing on top with a spoon. if you want to save it, put it into a bowl of boiled and cooled water slowly, with a spoon. refrigerate it till the next day. meanwhile, strain the buttermilk in the bowl to remove any remains of floating butter. vow ! clear, fragrant, light and heavenly buttermilk is ready.

  13. Renu, thanks for all that info. I did add fenugreek at the end. The way you described is the way we make mooru back in Kerala, but here mostly I use the nonfat yougurt..so there is nothing to churn out.
    Not sure about the technicalities of naming kalan but that is what the cookbook said. So I assumed it was right.

    Thanks Lera.

  14. Hi Gini,
    I am a Tamil vegetarian and I love keralite dishes a lot. My MIL from Kerala, used to call this as Pazhapulisery as Renu had mentioned. She used to make it in a similar way in India. Here in US, she boils the cut ripe plantains with turmeric, jaggery and salt. Since the plantain though ripe sometimes lack the sweetness and doesnot have the exact taste as we get in India – she adds jaggery to it. I love this dish the best and I add cumin powder and very little vendhayam powder in the tadka as my variation. Love your blog (and injimanga, spicyana, kitchen wonders and annita) and is a must read in my daily routine.

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  17. hi giniann,
    i earlier had skipped the kalan. i found it right on the page. thank you. now my family can once more feast on the kalan tomorrow itself. thank you. have a great time

  18. Hi salt and pepper

    This is not kaalan. Kaalan is made from raw plantain (Ethakai/nenthra kai rather than the ripe one. Chembu, Cheena, Kumbalanga, Vellarika etc can replace banana. You wont get the traditional flavor of kaalan without fenugreek/ Uluva.
    Hope you are not annoyed by the comment! When you talk about authentic kerala recipe,please make some genuine research about ingredients and the method.

  19. The recipe reads well. However, genuine kaaLan in Kerala is never made using ripe plantains or bananas. The raw banana is used.

  20. I liked the way u explained how to make Kalan and i will be very thank ful to you if u send me some recipes about Namboodiri cuisine. I am a Hotel Management student and I am given the assignment since i am a malayalee. But unfortunately my mom and dad they r based in Mumbai so i am in a fix. So Please chechi help me out………..

  21. raji kumar (05:35:48) :

    I liked the way u explained how to make Kalan and i will be very thank ful to you if u send me some recipes about Namboodiri cuisine. I am a Hotel Management student and I am given the assignment since i am a malayalee. But unfortunately my mom and dad they r based in Mumbai so i am in a fix. So Please chechi help me out………..

  22. Hello, I am braileira and I live in Italy. I’m building a site of Brazilian cuisine and would like to use your photo plantains on my site and ask your permission.
    thank you
    Fernanda Bocconi

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