UAE YouTube blogger Veena Jan’s 3 must-try Kerala recipes to recreate the magic of Onam at home

UAE YouTube blogger Veena Jan’s 3 must-try Kerala recipes to recreate the magic of Onam at home

Onam is here and so is a grand vegetarian feast you most definitely shouldn’t miss out on

Celebrate Onam with these three recipes to definitely have on your banana leaf or what is natively known as 'kootan' Image Credit: Saveurs Secretes/

Happy Onam! The season of harvest has finally dawned upon the Kerala community and what better way to celebrate it other than eating 28 dishes on a banana leaf.

The 10-day harvest is celebrated with music, dance and food, and Veena Jan spoke to us on what makes Onam extra special for her. She said: “I usually prepare my meals at home and I make all of it because one dish less can make the entire meal feel completely different.”

Don’t compromise on the payasam (pudding or kheer). Even if you can’t make it, buy it… you get it in bulk. So call your friends and have a happy – and filling – Onam

- Veena Jan

Like Veena, several Kerala-based expatriates try to make their dishes at home. Well, maybe most of them. Those living alone can find it quite difficult to make the entire spread in one go and so Veena recommends: “A banana leaf, a spoonful of rice, a few easy-to-make side dishes, pickle and pappadam (fried flatbread) – that would be just fine. Also don’t compromise on the payasam (pudding or kheer). Even if you can’t make it, buy it… you get it in bulk. So call your friends and have a happy – and filling – Onam.”

Before you bask in the merriment of a traditional Kerala feast, here’s a short story on how Onam truly came to be…

A sacrifice of one, a festival of honour

Legend has it in Hindu mythology that there was once a generous and benevolent ruler named King Mahabali. He was loved by his courtiers and countrymen, which made him one of the kindest rulers of the time. All was good, except for one thing – he was an asura (demon).

While his people overlooked this fact, the deities (suras) weren’t so pleased with what they saw and were envious of him. After all, he was an asura. But what the suras did find out was that King Mahabali was a devoted follower of the Hindu deity Vishnu. And so they sought Vishnu’s help, who then disguised himself as Vamana (a Brahmin dwarf) and approached King Mahabali for his help.

Vamana then asked the king to allot him the area of land he could cover in three steps. Generous as he was, King Mahabali promptly agreed. Vamana transformed into a massive giant on Mahabali’s acceptance of this condition and ended up taking one step, which covered the entire earth and a second step which covered the sky. But before Vamana took the third step, King Mahabali realised he could destroy everything and requested him to place it on his head.

Impressed by his sacrifice, Vamana offered him a blessing. This led to King Mahabali requesting the deity Vishnu to give him an opportunity to return to earth every year to visit his kingdom and people for a day. Once Vishnu granted him this blessing, he also assured King Mahabali that he would be cherished and honoured for his act of selflessness and sacrifice.

And so Onam or harvest festival marks the return of King Mahabali every year to celebrate with his subjects.

If you’re still feeling hungry after this story, here’s UAE top blogger Veena Jan’s three must-try recipes for Onam…

1. Rasakalan

Rasakalan Image Credit: Supplied


  1. 2 cups ash gourd, diced
  2. 2 cups pumpkin, diced
  3. 1 cambodge tamarind or kudam puli
  4. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  5. 2½ cup water
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 7 tbsp coconut, grated
  8. 8 dry red chilli
  9. 2 green chilli
  10. ½ tsp fenugreek
  11. 1 tsp rice
  12. 3 peppercorns
  13. 7 tbsp yoghurt, whisked
  14. 1 piece jaggery
  15. 250 ml water


  1. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  2. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  3. 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  4. 3 dry red chilli
  5. 2 sprigs curry leaves


  1. Soak the cambodge tamarind in one cup of water and extract the pulp from it.
  2. Using a thick-bottomed pan, add the diced ash gourd and pumpkin and pour the tamarind pulp into it.
  3. Next, add turmeric powder, salt and water (in equal measures).
  4. Mix it well, close the pan and allow the vegetables to cook till it becomes soft and tender.
  5. While the vegetable cook, roast rice, ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds and dry red chilli in a separate pan.
  6. Next, add the grated coconut along with roasted items, peppercorns, dry red chilli and green in a blender and grind it to a fine paste.
  7. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the ground paste along with the jaggery and allow it to boil well for 10 minutes on a medium flame, stirring occasionally.
  8. Then add whisked yoghurt into it, mix well and switch off the flame. (Note: Make sure you whisk the yoghurt to a medium consistency. Also, ensure that your yoghurt doesn’t curdle by moving it off the flame immediately).
  9. Now for the seasoning, add mustard, fenugreek, dry red chilli and curry leaves in coconut oil and allow it to splutter well before removing it off the flame.
  10. Pour this seasoning onto the kalan and cover the dish with a lid for five minutes.
  11. Remove the lid, mix well one last time and serve with hot, steamed rice.

2. Olan

Olan Image Credit: Supplied


  1. 2 cups ash gourd
  2. ¼ cup red cow beans
  3. 2 green chillies
  4. 2 sprig curry leaves
  5. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  6. 1½ cup thick coconut milk
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1¼ cups water


  1. Soak the red cow beans for a few hours, and then using a pressure cooker, cook it well by adding 1 cup of water.
  2. Once done, drain it and keep the well-cooked beans aside.
  3. Cut ash gourd into small pieces.
  4. Using a thick-bottomed pan, cook it with salt, water and green chilli by closing the lid. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once the ash gourd is cooked well, allow the excess water to evaporate completely before adding the beans.
  6. Next, add the beans and mix it well.
  7. Add the thick coconut milk.
  8. Finally add coconut oil and curry leaves. (Note: You can add a pinch of sugar to enhance the taste).
  9. Close the pan with a lid for five minutes. Mix it well one last time before serving.

3. Pachamanga Kichadi (raw mango yoghurt)

Pachamanga Kichadi Image Credit: Supplied


  1. 1 raw mango
  2. ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  3. 1 green chilli
  4. 7 tbsp yoghurt
  5. 4 to 5 tbsp coconut, grated
  6. Salt to taste

For seasoning

  1. 2 tbsp coconut oil
  2. ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  3. 2 dry red chillies
  4. 1 sprig curry leaves


  1. Peel the mango, and using a box grater or shredder, finely grate it.
  2. To this, add salt and mix well.
  3. Using a blender, add coconut, mustard seeds, green chilli, and yoghurt. Grind it to a fine paste.
  4. Add this paste to the shredded mango and mix well.
  5. Heat coconut oil in a separate pan, add mustard seeds, dry red chillies and curry leaves. Allow it to splutter for a few minutes and take it off the flame.
  6. Pour this seasoning to the mango and mix it well. Cover the pan with a lid for few minutes before serving. (Note: If the mango is too sour for your liking, you can add sugar to balance the taste).

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