This recipe for Royal Malabar Kalan is a vegetable stew made with key Keralan ingredients. There’s locally grown pepper, of course, and elephant’s foot yam, then raw bananas and chilies plus a little coconut to bring it all together.

Our friend Ranjini Menon of The Turmerica in Wayanad loves to research the history of Keralan cuisine. She shared that the dish is about 500 years old because it contains chilies.

There were no chilies in Kerala until the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama arrived at Calicut (now Kozhikode) on May 20, 1498. The word for chilies in Malayalam actually means “Portuguese.” How’s that for word association?

We fell in love with the beautiful Kal Chatty (stone vessel) Ranjini cooked the dish in. Ranjini says hers is as old as her grandmother and solid granite. We’ll definitely be searching antique stores for one of these vessels next time we visit. It just wouldn’t be a trip to India if we didn’t lug some 10 kilogram cooking vessel home with us!

We hope you’ll try this recipe for Royal Malabar Kalan. To make it really easy you can follow along with Ranjini as she demonstrates the dish in the video below.

Royal Malabar Kalan – A Vegetable Stew Recipe

4 -6 servings


Equipment: a heavy-bottomed cooking vessel

2 ½ cups water
2 cups elephant’s foot yam, cubed and soaked in a mixture of ½ cup tamarind juice and ½ cups water
1 cup cubed raw banana or plantains
2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 cup plain yogurt, whipped in a food processor
1 cup grated coconut
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
Water as needed
1 – 2 Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 – 2 dried whole gundu milagai chilies (may substitute a mild red chilli like cascabels)
5 – 6 fresh curry leaves
1 Tablespoon melted ghee


  1. Bring the water to boil in a Kal Chatty or other heavy bottomed vessel then add the drained and rinsed yams, bananas, green chilies plus the salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 15 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Drain the vegetables. Stir in the yogurt until absorbed and cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Tip: low heat prevents the yogurt from separating.
  3. Pulse the coconut and cumin seeds in a blender or food processor with as much water as needed to make a fine paste. Add to the yam mixture.
  4. Stir in the black pepper to taste.
  5. Heat the coconut oil on medium high heat in a wok and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds, gundu milagai chillies and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to pop and splutter, stir the mixture into the yam curry.
  6. Transfer to a serving dish.
  7. Enjoy with the melted ghee drizzled on top just before serving.


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