Pumpkin Leaf Thoran with Shrimp and Coconut


For the past couple of months, I’ve been shuttling between Bangalore and Kannur and although everyone who knows me has had to listen to me whinging about how much I hate travelling, the truth is, I think I need a little bit of palm-trees-and-golden-beach Kerala and open-sewage-will-get-run-over-any-minute Bangalore to fully feel like myself.

Currently, I’m in Bangalore, and as I’m typing this, I have a track record of cooking about 90% of all meals consumed thus far. It does mean that I’m obsessively planning what to cook, and it really does take up most of my mind space, but I think that’ll change with a little bit of practice? I have a friend coming over for dinner in half hour, and I’m making mum’s tomato soup, some wok-tossed french beans, yes, the same ones I talked about here, and my new obsession — jacket potatoes. For dessert, there’s going to be custard apple payasam. And hot chocolate, should the mood strike. 


I had to put on a sweater yesterday which means I can start listening to Buble soon. Although my geyser isn't working at the moment and the water is ice-cold, I tell myself it’s a character building exercise every time I shower, which is every day mum, I know what you’re thinking. It’s also the perfect weather for staying in and watching a movie. I reached out to my insta community for recommendations last week, and boy did they deliver. I have never loved the internet more. Except maybe that one time Nigel Slater liked one of my tweets. For those of you interested, some of the movies I have since watched (and enjoyed) recently are The Incredible Jessica James, The Beautiful Fantastic and Barefoot in the Park. 


Before I run to check on the potatoes, I’m going to leave you with a recipe for pumpkin leaf, coconut and shrimp thoran. The recipe belongs to Chandri chechi, our cook in Kannur, who also very kindly hand-modelled in the picture above. Thoran refers to a side dish that usually contains coconut — the Malayali version of subzi, I guess? Floral, with just a hint of bitterness from the leaves, savoury from the shrimp and sweet from the coconut, this is the sort of dish I’d make if I were on an episode of Taste and Anthony Bourdain no longer looked orange and I wanted to impress him. But really, it’s also the sort of dish I’d make even on my lonesome ownsome, on a Sunday afternoon to go with some rice and maybe a nice movie. 


Pumpkin Leaf Thoran with Shrimp and Coconut

(serves 4 as a side dish)


250 g pumpkin leaves with stem
5-6 small shrimp, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
2 tbsp grated coconut
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil, if you prefer)
Salt to taste


The stem of a pumpkin leaf has a slightly woody outer covering — remove it like shown in this video. Cut the leaves into 1/2-inch shreds. Cut the stem into 1/2-inch cylinders. 

Mix the grated coconut, onion, salt, shrimp, green chilli, and turmeric to form a coarse paste. Add the pumpkin leaves and stems to it. 

Heat the oil in a kadai or a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and wait for it to splutter. 

Now add the pumpkin leaves mixture and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes. Add more salt if needed.

Remove from heat and serve hot with rice or rotis.