During the ten days of Onam every aspect of Kerala – the boat races, the delicious food, and the beautiful decorations are all fervently applauded by keen celebrators from around the state. The celebrations of this iconic and cultural festival, culminate on the final day of ‘Thiruvonam’.
Now, this day consists of one important activity most malayalis vigorously take part in – The vegetarian feast or Sadhya. The glorious multi-course meal consists of authentic and Onam-specific Kerela dishes like Avial, Thoran and Erissery that are as flavourful as they are decadent.
If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the construction of this magnificent gastronomical spread you’ve come to the right place.
(Images Courtesy: indianfestival2015.in/onam-sadya)
This yogurt based curry is one of the first served dishes on your banana leaf. Consisting mainly of homemade curd, raw banana, coconut and various other spices, Kalan (pronounced Kaa-lun) has a cooling and slightly sour taste that prepares you for all the flavours that await you.
Olan may not look very appetising, but what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in taste. Think of it as a stewed pumpkin curry cooked in coconut milk topped with black beans, curry leaves, coconut oil and Ash gourd known to most of our Malayali brethren as Kumbalanga.
Avial is probably the most well-known Kerela dish out there and plays an important role in the flavour quotient of your Onam meal. It’s more of a vegetable preparation than a curry that comes loaded with elephant yam, plantain, pumpkin, carrots, beans, brinjal, cucumber, drum sticks, snake gourd and avarai (beans).
This is another pumpkin and coconut based dish but has different flavours compared to Olan. Eriserry’s main base is pumpkin, lentils, mustard and curry leaves mashed in together that tastes freakin’ delicious when mixed with hot rice and Ghee.
Thoran is an Malayali-style cabbage or bean stir-fry with coconut, garnished by mustard seeds. The flavours of Thoran and Eriserry do a great job in complimenting each other.
6. Pineapple pachidi
This exotic dish may not be for everyone in terms of how it tastes but is definitely an integral part of the Sadhya platter. As a chutney made from pineapple, tumeric, yogurt and mustard, the taste of this sweet-sour delicacy is definitely an acquired taste.
7. Ingi Puli
The words Ingi and Puli basically translate to ginger and tamarind, the main ingredients of this chutney. The spicy and pungent paste is not meant to be eaten alone but mixed into your rice and Sambhar to really bring out its flavour.
8. Naranga curry and Manga curry.
Kerela style pickles of raw mango and lemon that add that gorgeous zing to your multi-faceted lunch.
9. That crunch – Pappadum, Kaya Varuthathu, Sarkara Upperi
Three of these items bring that really nice crunch to you Sadhya experience. Kerala’s Papadums are basically dried lenthil fryums, Kaya Varuthathu are banana chips and Sakara Upperi are fried banana pieces covered in jaggery.
A simple, bland, South Indian and healthy dal or lentil curry that when added to rice and other curries, forms the base of the meal.
Sambhar is a famous lentil and vegetable curry that originated in South India, whose preparations differ all over. Kerela Sambhar is not sweet or overly spicy but is more pungent and sour because of the large amounts of tamarind mixed into it. Drumsticks, baby shallots and carrot are also key ingredients of this delicious soup-curry that is meant to compliment the blandness of steaming white rice.
As a hot peppery soup that clears your sinuses and invigorates your soul, we really don’t have to explain what Rasam is, do we?
13. Pradhaman and Payasam
After indulging in spicy, sour and savoury flavours these two delectable sugary preparations of bananas, lentils, jaggery, milk and ghee puts a sweet and thoroughly satisfying end to your fantastic Onam experience.
The Onam Sadhya is really about indulging yourself in all the flavours and spices you can experience, without having to turn to non-vegetarian food. Apart from being served during Onam, Sadhyas are also typical of Malayali wedding feasts.
Want to know more about Onam and its festivities beside the food? Click here for a thorough education.