A mouthful of flavours

A mouthful of flavours

If there is anything about Onam that adds to the excitement factor, it is undoubtedly the sadya or the grand lunch.

Precisely speaking, it is the colourful spread laid out on the banana leaf on Thiruvonam day. This vegetarian feast, which is said to have had  as many as 50 to 60 dishes in the past, has now come down to 12 or 13. The ensemble of flavours and colours is a gourmet’s delight.

The main course, of course, is the humble rice. There is a particular way in which the sadya is served. The upperies, chips, pappadam and a variety of pickles come first. A plethora of dishes follows. This include kalan (a mix of raw banana and yam in a gravy of coconut, curd and green chillies), olan (pumpkin with beans cooked in coconut milk), avial (varied vegetables in a gravy of coconut and curd), Kerala sambar, koottucurry (yam and raw banana curry made with roasted coconut), thoran (a deep-fried item made with vegetables), pulissery (spiced yoghurt with coconut curry), inji curry (ginger curry), pachidi (a side dish made from vegetables like cucumber, ash gourd, bitter gourd, pineapple),  rasam, moru (buttermilk), to name a few.

The buffet ends with payasams like ada pradhaman (rice flakes cooked in sweetened milk) and parippu pradhaman (moong dal cooked in milk and jaggery).

As the City is all set to welcome Onam, preparations for the sadya are also in full swing. Amrita Nirmal, a teacher with NPS Indira Nagar prepares a proper sadya at home. “All our non-Keralite friends are called home to enjoy the feast. We usually have two lunches.
One is made at home on Thiruvonam day, the other is a special onam lunch organised in our colony on the Sunday after Thiruvonam. At home, we also include a special item, a speciality of North Malabar, which is a mix of papad and bananas,” she adds.

“The sadya is served in the traditional manner on a plantain leaf. Even though we grew up outside Kerala, my father always insisted we have a proper sadya at home. These days everything is available in the market. But there is something special about making everything at home,” says Amrita. People generally don’t wait for the last minute to prepare the dishes as the list is too long. Says Saraswatiamma, a home-maker, “The number of items for the sadya can vary according to one’s convenience. Some of the items are prepared well in advance like inji curry, achar and pachadi. The vegetables are chopped one day before Thiruvonam. However, the most time-consuming part is preparing the ada pradhaman. The ada has to be fried and should be in the right form before making the payasam,” she adds.

“The avial also forms an incredible part. The taste lies in the coconut oil and the curry leaves,” she says. However, she feels the food habits have changed over the years and the festivities have mellowed down.

“Now, everything is available in the market. Back in Kerala, the festivities start early in the morning. There will be lot of members at home and the feast is therefore on a grand scale. Here too, we have a few friends coming home for lunch.” she adds. The restaurants in the City too are offering grand lunches, which have a lot of takers. Long queues are seen at these places. Onasadya is a tradition that has been handed over from generation to generation. Clearly, it has stood the test of time.

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