Ash gourd with beans in coconut milk is a popular dish in traditional Kerala sadhya(feast). It is called olan, an Authentic Kerala vegan dish that is mild without any spices yet flavorful, rich in coconut flavor. Olan can be made in instant pot with canned coconut milk without losing the essence of the dish.
It is a curry made with ash gourd (white pumpkin / safed kaddu ) coconut milk and beans. Desi chori beans or Azuki beans( Red chori) or Black eyed peas (lobia, chawli) can be used here . The flavor of coconut is the highlight of this curry.
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- Ingredients for making olan (with alternatives)
- Ash gourd with beans in coconut milk (Olan ) – FAQs
- Coconut milk extraction
- Ash gourd benefits
Olan is a no spice, mild yet flavorful curry made with ash gourd (white pumpkin / safed kaddu ) coconut milk and beans such as desi chori / Azuki beans( red chori ) or Black eyed peas (lobia, chawli. The flavor of coconut milk stands out in this curry. In the traditional Kerala Sadhya where 15 -26 dishes are served olan acts as a palate cleanser in between the meal where all flavors are supposed to be relished. It is called a thoducurry. Meaning its like a dip not the main curry.
Olan is an authentic Kerala vegan dish made with 6 ingredients and a unique tempering. Olan is tempered only with raw coconut oil and curry leaves after switching off the stove. Thick coconut milk added in the end is never boiled. The dish heavily relies on fresh aromas and flavors of coconut(milk and oil), curry leaves and green chilies. Do not mask authentic with your usual tadka.
In a traditional Kerala sadhya (feast) on a banana leaf Olan should be served in center towards the edge of the top half of the leaf. Olan signifies the balance of flavors. it helps in the harmonious transition of flavors from left to right. The left half of the banana leaf has tart, spicy acidic flavors such as mango pickle, Citron pickle, etc and the right half has alkaline flavors that has legumes, lentils and vegetables and fruit dishes like Mixed vegetable, Pumpkin curry . Olan helps to cleanse the palate so all the flavors can be enjoyed with the same intensity in between the meal.
In the ancient times when feasting was not so elaborate a sadhya consisted of 4 dishes which used the indigenous vegetables available in the region. Root vegetables, gourds and beans were primarily used and the acidic flavors came from tamarind, yogurt and coconut. The 4 dishes made in those days were Olan, Yam yogurt curry (Chena kalan) , Pumpkin and beans curry (Eriserry) and Ginger pickle ( Inji puli)
Ash gourd benefits :
Ash gourd is used in sweet and savory dishes due to its no flavor profile and jelly like structure on cooking. You will find this white pumpkin in many Indian and Chinese dishes in soups , stews and salads. Pairs well with fatty meats. It is also used in making candied sweets and desserts.
The South Asian wax melon, white pumpkin juice is an excellent natural remedy to stabilize the high blood sugar spike as per Ayurveda. Naturopaths suggest diabetic patients to have ash gourd juice on empty stomach in the morning for best results. It has high water content, rich in soluble fiber and low in carb, hence this vegetable that promotes digestive health too.
Ingredients for making olan :
- Ash gourd : Ash gourd is also called winter melon, wax melon, white pumpkin, Chinese watermelon. Safed kadhu in Hindi, Kumbalanga in Malayalam.
- Substitute vegetable : Indian yellow pumpkin
- Beans : Traditionally whole yard long beans with green part is used or the just dried beans soaked is used. Vanpayar or red chori is also used.
- * USE OVERNIGHT SOAKED BEANS FOR BEST RESULTS *
- Substitute beans : If you love in the US these are the beans available in most Indian grocery stores. It works well in this recipe – Desi chori, Azuki beans( red chori), Black eyed peas (lobia, chawli). Basically any fast cooking beans can be used as per the availability. Use tender French beans in dire cases.
- Coconut milk : **USE FRESHLY EXTRACTED COCONUT MILK FOR BEST RESULTS (extraction detailed below). If fresh coconut is not available then used canned coconut milk (not sweetened coconut cream)
- Substitute: Since olan is a traditional dish there is no substitute but other nut milks may be used . Even full fat whole milk may be used.
- Coconut oil, green chili and curry leaves : No substitutes are available because the dish heavily relies on the flavors from these threee ingredients.
Coconut milk extraction :
– Remove the white part from the coconut hard shell either by scrapping the inside, grating or breaking it apart. Make sure most of the brown outer skin is discarded for pure white milk.
– Blend the coconut in a mixie to a coarse texture by whipping once or twice.
– Then pour 1 cup of really warm water (not boiling hot)on the coconut. Allow it to sit for few minutes once the heat is bearable extract the milk by pressing and squeezing with your hand like a sponge. — Pass this through a sieve or mesh cloth to catch all the bits and pieces. This is the first extract of coconut milk which is most concentrated form.
– Pour more 1 -2 cup of warm water on the same coconut pulp. This time squeeze well with your hand and extract as above . This a more diluted for of coconut milk and it is the second extract of coconut milk.
Should the dry beans be soaked overnight ?
It is always best to soak all types of dry beans used in Indian cooking. This reduces cooking time. This also removes the indigestible sugars and reduces flatulence. Wash the beans and change the water 2-3 times while soaking if possible.
Always soak beans in lot of water. Merely just enough water for the beans to expand will simply dry out the top layer and result in uneven soaking and affect cooking later. Uniformly soaked beans is very important in the preparation of this recipe.
Please note that the cooking time may vary according to the beans used. Pressure cook for a few more minutes if needed. Pot in pot method helps in cooking just the beans and remove the ash gourd on time.
Olan making steps :
Check out how different the overnight soaked bean looks.
The technique of pot-in -pot method is used here by inserting a stand and separating the beans and ash gourd. This ensures that after first cooking if the bean is not cooked properly it can be cooked once more without all of the ash gourd turning into pulp.
Storing olan :
Fresh is best and store leftover in the refrigerator for up to a day max. Since most ingredients are added raw and there are not much of preserving spices it will spoil fast. Make olan just before time to serve and serve immediately for best results.
Similar recipes made with coconut milk that are popular here:
Ash gourd with beans in coconut milk
- Instant pot or pressure cooker stand and any inner pot
- 1/8 th of 1 Ash gourd 15-20 pieces (Check video for thickness)
- 2-3 tbsp Beans (Desi chori) soaked overnight
- 5 oz Coconut milk 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon
- 1-2 Green chili 1/2 slit and 1/2 cut into pieces
- 2 sprigs Curry leaves
- 2 bsp Coconut oil
- Salt to taste
- Wash and soak the beans over night.
- Peel the hard green skin of the ash gourd and discard . Discard the core along with seeds. Cut the white into thin slices. Arrange in an inner pot. Add 1/2 cup of water salt 1/2 green chili and 2 tbsp of coconut milk (if using fresh milk use 2 nd extract diluted with water ) Coconut milk has a tendency to split in high heat so always dilute.
- In the instant pot cook pot in pot method. Inside the inner pot add soaked beans add a pinch of salt and mix. On top of it place the stand on that place the inner pot with ash gourd.
- In the MANUAL MODE – PRESSURE COOK in the -sealing mode- for 5 minutes. In natural pressure release for 5 minutes then release pressure . Check if the ash gourd and the beans are cooked. Remove everything from the inner pot. Drain off the water in the beans(This helps to keep curry white). Keep everything aside.Switch on SAUTE MODE – then add only 1/3 rd of the ash gourd with the all coconut milk mix. Mash the gourd and well until most of the moisture evaporates. Reduce heat to low.
- Add the rest of the cooked ash gourd and the cooked beans. Allow this to heat up. Switch off the heat. Then add the coconut milk( First extract thick and undiluted). The residual heat will heat up the coconut milk add the curry leaves by squeezing it slightly. Now add the raw coconut oil. Cover and pot. Serve after 10 minutes. Stir once before serving.*Consistency required – Thick (not runny)**Will thicken slightly as it sits .
- Serve this delicious curry with rice and other spicy curries. Only a tablespoon or two is served on the side of the plate on regular days and for feasts too (explained above).