(Onam, Thiruona Sadya, Sadya Vibhavangal, Sadya Menu, Kerala Sadya Recipes, Vishu Sadya, Sadya Vattangal)
Onam is a festival celebrated by the Malayalees. Onam starts on the day of attam nakshatram and goes on for ten days till thiruvonam. Click here to read more about Onam Festival.
The most important part of thiruvonam is the Thiruona Sadya. Sadhya is a vegetarian feast or banquet that is served during onam, vishu, family get together and weddings (Kalyana Sadhya). The multi course meal is served traditionally in banana leaf. The sadya has steamed Kerala matta rice (Rosematta rice or Red parboiled rice) as the main ingredient served with many side dishes, 10 or more. This includes some classic vegetable preparations, pickles, fried sides, etc. There are atleast 3-4 curries served , one after the other. The meal ends with an array of sweet payasams. The preparation for the onasadhya begins few days before the actual feast. The pickles are prepared first before 1 week, followed by the fried snacks prepared before 2-3 days. The day before the sadhya, all vegetables are bought, ingredients for the pradhamans are all set out. Usually, sadhya is made by a group of people who all work together to chop the vegetables and prepare the dishes. For nuclear family setup, vegetables can be chopped and refrigerated the previous day. Overall, it is large meal making it a memorable experience.
There is also a specific order in which the dishes are served. I will try to brief about that also. The side items served in the sadya may vary from region to region. In some places, rasam is served while in other places it is skipped. Similarly, the fried snacks served may also vary. If you are a beginner trying to make sadhya at home, you can begin with few dishes and then try to include more items every year.
Here is a list of items and options to choose from to make your own Kerala Sadya at home. I will explain in detail about each category in the order how it is served.
1. Fried Snacks
As I said before, sadhya is served in banana leaf. The banana leaf is kept with the broader end to the right side. Everyone washes the leaf with the water that is with them. After that the sadhya items are served.
First the fried snacks will be served. These are prepared 3-4 days before the actual sadhya as it stays good. These days people prefer to buy these from shops to make life easier.
Usually plantain chips, sarkaravaratti upperi, papadam are a must. Plantain chips is the regular salted banana chips that is popular in Kerala bakeries. Sarkaravaratti upperi is also fried plantain that is coated with jaggery syrup. Papadam is a popular sun dried condiment that is fried before serving. Along with this some people like to prepare vada unniappam etc. A banana is also served along with this.
After the fried items, a line of pickles are served. Kerala is popular for its pickle varieties. The classic pickles served are puli inghi (a condiment made with ginger) and tamarind, mango pickle and naaranga (wild lime) achaar. Other pickles are also sometimes made depending on convenience.
3. Side Dishes
Next in line comes the various side dishes. The first one served is the aviyal, which is a mixed vegetable side dish. It is follwed by thoran, pachadi, khichadi, kootu curry and olan. Thoran can be made with any vegetable like cabbage, beans, banana stem, raw jackfruit, beetroot etc. Khichadi and pachadi are curd based sidedishes. Khichadi is made with cooked vegetables like vendakkai (okra), pavakka (bitter gourd) etc. Pachadi is slightly sweetish and made with mango, banana, beetroot etc.
Other than these, erissery and theeyal are served in some parts of Kerala. Erissery is made with cowpeas and pumpkin. Theeyal is another preparation wherein vegetables like bittergourd, brinjal, drumstick etc. are cooked in a dark brown gravy made of roasted coconut.
After all the side items are served, rice is served. Keralites love the earthy flavour of the locally grown red rice, which is also known as Rosematta rice or Kerala rice. There is no other variety of rice that can be substituted. Cooking this rice perfectly takes some time as compared to the other rice varieties. Click on the link to see the detailed instructions for cooking Kerala rice in two ways.
Ghee is drizzled over the parippu curry that is the first curry to be served. Hot steaming rice with cooked lentils and ghee need no description. All those who have tasted it know that the trio makes a heavenly combo.
Now comes the time to pour the Ozhichu Curries one by one. First the parippu curry is served topped with ghee over a small portion of rice. After the guests have enjoyed this, sambar is served. Sambar is made with lentils and mixed vegetables. It is followed by kalan or pulissery, which is a curry made with buttermilk and some vegetable. Some places also include istoo or stew in their menu. After this rasam is served in some places. In other places, people prefer to go straight to the cool sambaram. Sambaram is nothing but spiced buttermilk also known as pacha moru. It really soothes the tummy after having the heavy meal.
Well, the meal is not over yet. The best is yet to come. Yes, the desserts. It is quite common to find 2-3 types of pradhamans (payasams). Sometimes other desserts like boli is also served. The popular ada pradhaman is the first to hit the banana leaf. The pradhaman is poured over the leaf which has traces of all the curries previously served, Somehow this makes it extra special. The banana which was served in the beginning is mixed with the ada pradhaman and enjoyed.
Next the white payasam is served, which can be semiya payasam, palada pradhaman or chowwary payasam. In our places, paruppu boli or sweet boondhi is served with this. A scoop of the payasam along with a piece of boli tastes extra delicious.
After that comes the parippu pradhaman made with either cherupayaru paruppu or kadala paruppu. Instead of this, chakka pradhaman or pazham pradhaman or any other pradhaman can also be made. In most places, I have seen 3 types of pradhamans being served but some people also take it to the next level and serve up to 5 varieties of pradhaman. After all its a day of feasting.
A Onam Sadya feast prepared by my aunt.
Here is the picture of Sadhya prepared by my aunt. Since it was prepared abroad, some of the traditional items might be missing.
Not only during onam, we love to prepare sadhya sometimes during family get togethers. My aunt takes the role as a head chef while we all cousins do the smaller jobs like chopping vegetables, grinding the masala, stirring the curry etc. while chit chating. The preparation and the feast together makes a wholesome experience.