Onam is here and for Malayalis all over the country, the festivities are incomplete without the traditional feast or Onam Sadhya. According to the Malayalam calendar, the annual harvest festival is usually celebrated for 10 days in the month of Chingam and the festivities continue till September 13 this year.
It is on the 10th day of festivities or Thiruvonam that the lavish Onam Sadhya is cooked in all households. There is no doubt that the delectable array of food makes the mouth water. Spread on plantain leaves, the meal includes nine courses, but may include over two dozen dishes, including chips (especially banana chips), Sharkaraveratti (fried pieces of banana coated with jaggery), pappadam, various vegetable and soups such as injipuli (also called puli inji), thoran, mezhukkupuratti, kaalan, olan, avial, sambhar, dal served along with a small quantity of ghee, erisheri, molosyam, rasam, puliseri (also referred to as velutha curry), kichadi (not to be confused with khichdi) and pachadi (its sweet variant), moru (buttermilk or curd mixed with water), pickles both sweet and sour, and coconut chutney.
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The feast ends with dessert called Payasam (a sweet dish made of milk, sugar, jaggery, and other traditional Indian savouries) eaten either straight or mixed with ripe small plantain. The curries are served with rice, usually the ‘Kerala Matta’ parboiled rice preferred in the state.
What’s more, these dishes are very simple to make and, hence, can be prepared just in time for lunch. We present a list of dishes served on the banana leaf, so you have your Onam sadhya basics right, before you head to prepare one.
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Rice: The Onam sadhya is incomplete without its main component — the semi-polished brown rice of Kerala, known as kutthari.
Olan: This dish is a preparation of white gourd and coconut milk, with ginger and coconut oil for seasoning.
Rasam: A watery dish, much like a soup, made primarily of tamarind, tomatoes, and hot spices like black pepper and chili pepper, asafoetida and coriander. It is made very spicy and is known for being a cure for indigestion.
Tamarind-Ginger curry or puli inji: As one of the star dishes of a Onam sadhya, it is a lip-smacking combination of sweet, sour and spice, made with crushed ginger and green chillies added to tamarind.
Pachadi: Generally made with sliced ash gourd (petha), they are also made with fruits like pineapple and grapes which are added to a gravy that consists of coconut grounded with mustard and green chillies.
Sambar: The humble sambar is one of the essentials in Kerala sadhya. The thick sambar gravy is made of lentils, tamarind, tomato and drumsticks and is flavoured with asafoetida.
Avial: Made of grated coconut and vegetables, avial stands out for its seasoning with coconut oil and curry leaves.
Erissery: This dish consists of one or two vegetables like bananas with a ground coconut paste curry base.
Parippu curry: A simple lentil dish made in coconut oil or ghee, it is generally garnished with curry leaves.
Kaalan: A combination of raw banana, yogurt, pepper, grated coconut, jeera, green chillies and turmeric, this dish has the ability to stay fresh for several days.
Kichadi: Tasting much like a raita, with a yogurt base, vegetables like cucumber or beetroot are added.
Thoran: Coconut oil-sautéed vegetables is another important element of the sadhya, without which the traditional meal remains incomplete.
Payasam: Like a kheer, payasam comes in many varieties like palpayasam, ada pradhaman, pal ada payasam, ney payasam and semiya payasam.
Recipes by Sudhir Nair, executive chef, Courtyard by Marriott, Bengaluru ORR (Outer Ring Road)
100ml – Refined oil
500g – Peeled, finely chopped ginger
250g – Finely chopped chillies
150g – Tamarind
400g – Jaggery
5g – Fenugreek seeds
50g – White sesame seeds
Salt to taste
50ml – Gingelly oil
5g – Mustard seeds
2g – Asafoetida
2 sprigs – Curry leaves
3 no – Red chillies
*Soak tamarind in 150 ml of warm water for 15 minutes. Mash and strain.
*Break the jaggery in small bits and melt on a low flame with a few drops of water. Strain and keep it aside.
*Heat oil and add fenugreek seeds. When it starts getting brown, add ginger and sauté on a very low flame.
*Now add green chillies and cook for a few minutes.
*Mix in the strained jaggery and tamarind extract.
*Let the liquid simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the scum that shall collect on the sides.
*The liquid will get thick and start leaving oil on the sides. Season it.
*For tempering, heat oil and put in all the ingredients. Add the liquid to it.
*Toast the sesame seeds and coarsely grind it.
*Add it to the liquid and mix well.
*Take it off the flame and allow it to cool before serving.
It will taste better after the flavours mellow down in a day’s time. If cooked well, it does not need refrigeration to store and can last for over a month.
100g – Ada (rice flat pasta)
250g – Palm jaggery (dark)
300ml – Fresh coconut milk
3 no – Cardamom
50g – Dry coconut
10g – Cashew nuts
10g – Raisins
50ml – Ghee
*Soak the Ada in boiling hot water for 15 minutes, or until it becomes soft.
*Drain the water completely and rinse in cold water (sprinkle coconut oil lightly if sticking to each other)
*Boil and dissolve jaggery in 100ml of water and strain it to remove impurities if any.
*Heat ghee and fry the cashew nuts, raisins and coconut pieces separately. Once done, take it out from the pan.
*In the same pan, heat ghee and fry the Ada in low flame for four-five minutes.
*Now add jaggery water and cardamom to the Ada and cook in on low flame until it thickens. Remove the scum that gets collected on the sides.
*Now add the thick fresh coconut milk, bring it to a single boil and take it off the flame stirring continuously.
*Now top it with fried cashew nuts, raisins and coconut bits.
*Do not boil the preparation or the coconut milk, it will split. You can add a touch of edible camphor if available.
Rava Appalu by chef Avinash Jha from Jaypee Vasant Continental
1/2 cup – Semolina
1 and 1/4 cup – Water
5tbsp – Ghee
1 cup – Sugar
1tsp – Spice cardamom
*Add water to a vessel and place over medium flame. Let it boil and then, add ghee in it.
*After a minute or two, add semolina and cardamom powder in it. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Put sugar and mix everything well. Keep the flame at a low setting and let the mixture become thick. Once, the consistency has thickened, turn off the flame and cover the vessel with a lid and keep aside for 5 minutes.
*Let the mixture cool down a little and then, grease your palms with a little ghee and make small balls out of it. Make sure that the balls are smooth and have no cracks in it.
*Heat ghee in a deep pan over medium flame and shallow fry the rava balls till they turn golden in colour. Take out on a tissue paper to soak excess ghee and serve warm!