Back to classic basics - Olan

Its one of those days when you just have to listen to your homing instincts & go for the comfort factor. The taste buds craved the mild pastel & silky textures of a classic Kerala dish the Olan. & the nice part is that all it takes is pretty much one zucchini & a can of coconut milk.
Growing up, I remember that whenever Amma made this, I'd always wish she'd make a LOT, Lot more since the dish was tasty enough to polish off on its own. It was always paired with a tart tamarind based gravy known as 'vetha kuzhambu' & ladles of piping hot plain rice, and a fried pappadum. The simple combination of vibrant tartness & delicate coconut milk spiced only with slit green chilli and torn curry leaves.  It simply has to be eaten to be appreciated.
But back to the basics.. There simply was not enough to polish off as a one pot dish as tempting as it is and you know how such matters sit at the back of the brain, never forgotten, but just waiting for the right moment & opportunity.
It took the arrival of the latest toy in my kitchen gadget collection to bring this dish to fruition. Oxo the kitchen tool company had graciously offered peelers to all my guests when I hosted a Food52 potluck party showcasing the awesome recipes that they feature on their site and their new book. The last peeler left over was a julienne peeler that cuts vegetables into incredibly thin spaghetti like strips, perfect for stir fries & non carby pasta offerings.. and huge servings of Olan.
Olan is a light stew made with coconut milk & cubed tender baby squash, seasoned simply with curry leaves & green chilli. and finished with a drizzle of coconut oil. As I mentioned before, it pairs well with tart tamarind flavored gravies such as 'vetha kuzhambu' or that other classic Kerala offering the 'Theeyal'.

Theeyal - Image credit & recipe: Ria Mary Matthews
Since my panfusine interpretation of olan is geared for a one pot pasta like avatar, I'm going to direct you to my friend Ria's blog for an AWESOME, drool inducing recipe for onion Theeyal, that she just posted today. Ria is a talented & fantastic baker whose gorgeously exquisite creations have made waves in the recent past.  Just visit her blog & you'll see what I mean.

For a traditional version of Olan, cut the zucchini into a smallish dice & add it in the beginning to the coconut milk mixture. Add 1/2 a cup of regular milk if you find the  stew to be too thick.

 Olan Spaghetti in a creamy coconut sauce

You need:

1 medium or 2 small zucchini
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
1 -2 green thai chilli (slit halfway through) or 1/2 a deseeded jalapeno pepper cut into strips
Salt to taste
1/3rd cup adzuki beans or black eyed peas cooked till soft.
1 sprig curry leaves, torn
1 tablespoon coconut oil for finishing.


Using a julienne peeler, cut thin strips from around the circumference of the zucchini, stopping when you come to the core, pithy part that contains the immature seeds.

Heat the coconut milk on a slow simmer along with the slit green chile/ jalapeno strips, cooked adzuki/black eyed beans, salt and torn curry leaves. When the mixture has thickened slightly, add the zucchini strips and allow  the zucchini to cook & soften enough to resemble the texture of  al dente spaghetti.

Transfer the zucchini spaghetti into a bowl, and spoon the coconut milk sauce over. Finish by drizzling melted coconut oil over the dish and serve warm.

Bon appetit!


  1. I think it is a classic fusion....Now I am off to explore this dish! And am smacking lips at the vetha kozhambu.....I think I should try to get a picture like that. Taking picture of such a brown food from top with a glaze of oil does not do justice to the recipe; You have made it look sooo... good!

  2. The theeyal photograph was taken by ria, her pics are spectacular!, I just posted it here with her consent.

  3. I love the twist you have given our sadha Olan! :) I would have never thought of making it this way,Niv! Thanks for the mention :-)

  4. Ria!!! How DARE you refer to Olan as Sadha?? its one of the most elegant stews in Indian cuisine..

  5. Lovely..I like our Olan's new avatar :-)

  6. Hi Niv, I thought I posted a comment a few days back but I do not see it here. I am not sure why. I had requested that you link to the krya vegan challenge post and also answered your query on my fb page. Since there was no response from you, I did not include this post. If you would link now, I will add the post. Hope you are able to see this.


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