Kurukku Kaalan ~ Popular Kerala Recipe by Ammini Ramachandran

by on November 15, 2011

In the tropical heat of South India, milk and milk products are highly perishable. Before the days of refrigeration, the only way to use leftover milk was to ferment it daily to make yoghurt. Yoghurt was churned in the morning to separate the butter from the buttermilk. Even buttermilk turns sour quickly in tropical heat.

To preserve sour buttermilk from further fermentation, it was cooked over slow heat. In the old days, kurukku kaalan was prepared with reduced sour buttermilk and stored in ceramic jars for several days. Ground coconut and seasoning spices were added only just before serving. Ammini Ramachandran shares this popular kerala recipe with us.


Kurukku Kaalan (Kerala Kadhi)


  • 1 green plantain, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 ½ cup telinga potatoes (suran), peeled and cubed
  • 2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
  • To tweak this into a Jain recipe, substitute the potatoes with raw plantains as a typical Jain recipe does not include any root vegetable.
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 3 tablespoons ghee
  • 10 cups sour buttermilk
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 cups freshly grated coconut
  • 6 to 8 fresh green chillies (Serrano or Thai) (less for a milder taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

For seasoning and garnish:

  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, toasted in a quarter-teaspoon of ghee and powdered
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 10 to 12 fresh curry leaves


1. Place the plantain and telinga potato cubes in a pot and pour in just enough water to cover them. Sprinkle on black pepper, salt and turmeric and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are under fork tender. Most of the water will have evaporated by the time the vegetables are cooked. Add the ghee, and keep stirring until all of the water has evaporated. Pour the sour buttermilk on top, sprinkle half of the curry leaves, and cook over low heat for several minutes, until the buttermilk has reduced to half of its original quantity.
2. While it is cooking, grind the coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds into a very thick, smooth puree. Add the puree to the vegetables, and cook over medium to low heat until it just begins to boil. Remove it from the stove, and set it aside. Stir in the powdered fenugreek seeds.
3. Heat the oil in a small skillet, and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the curry leaves, and remove it from the stove. Pour it over the cooked curry. Keep the dish covered until it is time to serve.


Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings if served with another curry, as is traditional.

Photo Courtesy: Food pic by Manasvi.


This recipe was first featured in Soul Food and Soul Mates – a column in Harmony Magazine. Part-1 of this post is the interview with Ammini & Rama Ramachandran from Texas whose roots are in Kerala.


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