Sunday 26 August 2012

"Uthrada Poonilave Va" - Olan

To be a vegetarian in India is very easy, not the least because of the variety of veggies and greens you find here. South Indian cooking is quite partial to the use of fruits of the earth, having endured centuries of the caste system, where, vegetarian Brahmins, occupied the pride of place atop.

Nostalgia definitely hit me while I prepared this yummy dish to go with my special Onam spread as my loving mom prepared this quite often back home and I wanted to go back to the comfort of my mom’s wonderful cooking. And thus I turned to this simple but deeply satisfying traditional stew made with yellow cucumber. It’s a mild stew, that is tamely spiced with green chillies and has very fresh flavors incorporated into it allowing the flavour of the vegetable to come through.

So over to today’s dish: The Olan.

Olan is yet another inevitable dish on the traditional Sadya menu. This dish is very subtle in flavour and avoids the use of any spices or masala. The mildly sweet coconut milk, crushed curry leaves and aromatic coconut oil gives this dish a spectacular clean fresh flavour. It’s unique taste and aroma makes an Onam Sadya complete. Veggies like pumpkin, yard long beans/Achinga Payar, Winter Melon, Ash Gourd and Yellow Cucumber are commonly used in this recipe. Today I have prepared Olan with yellow cucumber. Here goes the recipe.


Yellow Cucumber/Vellarikka (peeled and cubed evenly) - 250 gms
Red Cow Peas/Black-Eyed Beans/Vanpayar - 1/4 cup
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2 to 3
Coconut milk (semi-thick) - 1 cup
Coconut milk (thick) - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Coconut oil - 2 tsp (refer notes)


Soak the beans in water for 10 to 15 minutes. (optional) Drain and pressure cook this along with enough salt and water. (refer notes) Cook till done. (3 to 5 whistles approximately) Drain (if there is any excess water) and keep aside.

Cook the yellow cucumber cubes (refer notes) with green chillies, salt, adequate water, (about 1/2 cup) and curry leaves.

Once the cucumber cubes are cooked, (be careful not to overcook them, it should hold it's shape) add the cooked beans along with the semi-thick coconut milk. Mix well and bring to a boil. Adjust gravy to get the right consistency. Make sure the Olan is not too watery. Now pour in the thick coconut milk, crushed curry leaves (crushed between your palms to release more flavor), coconut oil and remove from heat. Mix well and cover with lid for 15 minutes. (this helps to incorporate flavors better) Serve hot/warm with rice. It was yummy. Ah! Bliss!


1. I did not add too much coconut oil. Feel free to adjust the quantity of oil used. The more the tastier.

2. It is not necessary to soak the Red Cow peas before cooking it. You can directly pressure cook it. The cooking time differs from one pressure cooker to another. Also, be sure to add more water while cooking it because the beans doubles in size once cooked.

3. Make sure the yellow cucumber is cut into evenly sized cubes to ensure proper cooking.

We had this as a side to our Onam Sadya. You can always include this as a dish in your daily meal. It works really well with the right food combinations.

Thanks very much to all my readers for your appreciation.

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