It’s that time of the year again when Malayalis around the globe clad in kasavu (hand woven Kerala sarees) and mundu (veshti) are tirelessly putting together the perfect ‘pookalam’, preparing an elaborate ‘Onasadhya’ and bringing in the festival spirit by organising ‘vallam kali’ (boat race), ‘pulikali’ (tiger dance), ‘Kummattikali’ (colourful masked dance) and ‘thumbi thullal’ (women’s dance). Well, if these terms don’t ring a bell, then you've probably missed out on one of the most spectacular experiences of a lifetime. Onam is around the corner and we can’t contain our excitement. Onam or Thiruonam is a 10-day harvest festival celebrated in Kerala. According to legend, king Mahabali who once ruled the state, pays a visit to his subjects every year and Onam is celebrated to commemorate his homecoming. The 10 day celebration starts on atta nakshatram and goes on till Thiruvonam.
Best known for its serene backwaters and tropical beaches, the state of Kerala is a delightful sight during Onam. The rich culture, the vibrance and the great enthusiasm shown by keralites is a major attraction.
Onam Sadhya is the multi-course vegetarian meal served on the occasion on a ginormous banana leaf featuring over 25 dishes. Well, there are no surprises here. A South Indian meal without banana leaf, in my opinion is blasphemous (pardon the drama). With preparations beginning much in advance, Sadhya brings the community together in forging a memorable experience. It typically consists of traditional dishes from across the state, including a variety of curries, fried snacks, pickles, sweets served alongside red rice. Dig into these dishes to get a slice of god’s own country.
The main course of the Sadhya. Malayalis usually use red rice or par boiled rice which is mixed with a variety of side dishes.
Sambar is a hot favourite of Indians globally. But the Kerala style sambar is quite different from it all. Sadhya is usually served with ‘Varutharacha Sambar’ which means roasted and ground and is made with mixed vegetables, roasted coconut and lots of spices.
This ultimate comfort food is an essential part of the Sadhya. Made with tamarind, tomatoes, pepper and lentils, this South Indian variation of soup is mixed with red rice and enjoyed with a dry vegetable preparation.
Mor curry often called Mor Kuzhambu or Pulissery is a savoury side dish made of buttermilk and served with rice and dry spicy vegetable dish.
A typical Keralite delicacy with a yogurt based gravy, this sour cream curry is made with yams, plantains, coconut and curd.
Thoran is a stir fry vegetable dish made of either cabbage, beans, raw jackfruit or carrot and grated coconut.
A mixture of white pumpkin, coconut milk and cow peas, olan can be served with steamed rice or red rice.
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A thick gravy made with pumpkin, ground coconut and seasoned with fried shallots and fried coconut.
Well, a Sadhya cannot be complete without aviyal. It is a thick stew of vegetables with curd and coconut paste tempered with coconut oil and curry leaves.
Puli Inji is a sweet and sour ginger pickle made of tamarind, ginger and jaggery, served as an appetizer in Sadhya.
Banana chips is perhaps one of those souvenirs that you really don’t want to miss when in Kerala. At least, the constant reminders from friends and dear ones won’t let you forget it. Add a sugary twist to the banana chips and you have upperi. Dipped in jaggery syrup and coated with powdered sugar, this crispy snack is not only an integral part of the Sadhya but is also prepared on other occasions.
Ada Pradhaman is a traditional Kerala payasam prepared with jaggery coconut milk and rice ada or rice flakes. The pieces of rice batter are soaked in a thick concoction of jaggery, coconut and cardamom.
Paal Payasam or what is known as Unakkalari in Malayalam is purely divine. The mild pink hue from the slow cooked red rice and the minimal garnish makes it the perfect ending to an amazing spread.