Onam Sadhya or “Onasadhya “ is a traditional feast served during the harvest festival of Onam, which is celebrated in the Indian state of Kerala. Traditionally, the Onasadhya is served on the fresh banana leaves. A full fledged sadhya or feast usually serves about 28-30 vegetarian dishes along with rice. There is a very distinct and clear order of placing dishes on the banana leaf during the onasadhya and people enjoy it by sitting cross-legged on the mats laid on floor.
While serving dishes, the banana leaf is placed in such a way that its narrow edge is faced towards the left hand side of the eater. The dishes are served from left to right in the following order:
1. Dishes Served on The top Left Corner of the Leaf
- Kaya Uperi – They are quartered banana chips. Raw banana is quartered and is deep-fried in oil.
- Sarkaravaratty – This is another variety of banana chips dipped in molasses and it is served as an appetizer.
- Pappadam – A crispy cracker, which is served as an accompaniment to all main meals in South India.
- Pazham – A Malayalam term for banana. In Kerala, bananas are served during all special feasts because they are the main harvest of the state.
- Salt – This is served as a part of tradition. It allows the eaters to decide the saltiness of the dishes that they are consuming.
2. Dishes Served from Middle Left to Right
All 'thotu curries' or side dishes are served from middle left to right side of the dish. The dishes are served on the order of their importance
- Puli Inji – This is prepared by boiling tamarind, jaggery, ginger and green chilies in unique proportions. In some places it is known as Inji curry
- Manga Curry – This is a variety of oil free mango pickle.
- Naranga Curry – A variety of oil –free lemon pickle that is often served on such occasions.
- Kichadi – A vegetarian dish prepared by cooking cucumber in yogurt.
- Pachadi – This is a sweetened form of kichdi, but minor changes are made in the choice of vegetables. Usually coconut, pineapple and grapes are used in the preparation of pachadi.
- Kootukari – A mixed vegetable dish prepared using chickpeas, bananas and other vegetables. The recipes for this dish vary according to the taste preferences of the consumers.
- Thoran – Thoran is a sautéed vegetable preparation usually involving any one of the vegetables like carrots, French beans, raw jackfruit, and cabbage. The thoran is thickened by the addition of grated coconut.
- Olan – A typical vegetable preparation involving pumpkin, and coconut milk.
- Aviyal – A mixture of various vegetables, which is cooked in yogurt. Aviyal is thickened by addition of coconut paste and seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil. It is usually served on the extreme right corner of the leaf.
3. Main Dishes Served on the Center of the Leaf
Choru - The rice cooked from kuthari or red rice grown in Kerala
The rice is eaten in three courses. Following dishes are served as an accompaniment:
- Parippu Curry – This is a lentil stew. The rice is eaten with lentil stew along with ghee and pappadam during the first course.
- Kalan – A dish prepared by boiling yams, or banana in coconut paste and yogurt. During second course rice is eaten with kalan.
- Sambar – Thick vegetable gravy prepared using lentils, and various vegetables like potato, drumstick, and ladies finger , and it is flavored with asafoetida. During the final course rice is consumed with sambar.
During all these courses rice is served in small amounts.
4. Dishes Served Towards the End of Sadhya
- Rasam – A sour soup, which is prepared by boiling the tamarind stock or tomato stock with various spices like chili pepper, black pepper, coriander and asafetida. This soup is revered for its digestive properties.
- Moru – This is salty buttermilk, which regulates digestion. Sometimes it is modified into an appetizing drink known as sambaram with the addition of lemon leaves and green chilies.
Rasam and Moru are usually served on hands. People cusp their hands to catch the rasam or moru, which is served from a kettle.
The onasadhya ends with a prathaman or payasam.
- Prathaman-Prathaman or payasam is a sweet dish prepared with or without milk. The prathamans are usually prepared from jaggery, or molasses. Payasams are the dishes prepared from rice or rice related items. Some of the popular Prathamans served during the Onam Sadhya are:
- Parippu Pradhaman – Prepared from green gram, and jaggery. The green gram is cooked in jaggery sauce and coconut milk until it emanates the desired flavor.
- Palada Payasam – Ada is the name for flakes of cooked rice, which are treated with milk and sugar to make this dish. This payasam is flavored using cardamom.
- Pazha Pradhaman – The prathaman prepared by cooking the ripe plantains in coconut milk and jaggery.
- Gothambu Pradhaman – This is a type of wheat pradhaman prepared by cooking the broken wheat in jaggery sauce.
- Chakka Pradhaman – Finely sliced Chakka Chula or riped jackfruit is fried in ghee or jaggery at high temperature in a bronze vessel known as uruli. The chakka pradhaman can be preserved in porcelain bharanis for long time.
- Ada Pradhaman – It is prepared by cooking the flaked rice in jaggery sauce.