Relishing with fervour

Onam Feast

Relishing with fervour

Onam, Kerala’s harvest festival, is as much about the traditional delicacies as about pookalam – flower carpets or rangolis (as they called in North India), dressing up traditionally and decorating houses and doing special puja.

Beginning with pookalam, Onam celebrations last for 10 days where every day has its own significance. Food is an integral part of this festival which includes a grand feast of the traditional 27-course ‘sadya’.

Delhi’s around two lakh Malayali community too began the celebrations with feast and fervour. The dishes are normally served on a banana leaf in the traditional way – mainly at lunch time.

The dishes that are must and relished on the biggest festival of the Malayali community, not just in Kerala but across the globe are veget­a­ble curry, sweet payasam, lady finger’s khichdi, avial, celery payaru thoran, pulissery, pachadi and various other delicacies. The feast is incomplete without these dishes.

Many of the Onam recipes are desserts. Payasam (or kheer) is a must. It is a sweet dish made by thickening milk and there are not one but many kinds of payasam. These include Pal payasam; semiya payasam made from milk and vermicelli sweetened with sugar; parippu and wheat payasam – a lip-smacking dessert prepared out of coconut, jaggery and broken wheat.

One basic recipe without which the festival cannot be imagined is vegetable curry.
A number of vegetables like drumsticks, potatoes, lady fingers etc, are brewed in a stew cooked in coastal Malabar style.

The Onam typically includes at least nine types of dishes, while there is no limit to the maximum number. And while different families prepare different dishes, most settle for around 11-15 dishes. Some also include avial in the Onam platter.

The dish is a thick mixture of vegetables, curd and coconut, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. You will also see khichdi, banana chips, sambhar, rasam and other South Indian dishes on the festive platter.

Geetha Radhakrishnan, a resident of Dilshad Garden, says there can be a variety of side dishes made of vegetables but the main is sambhar and red rice that is special to Kerala.

“Traditionally, there are various kinds of papa­d­a­ms such as those made of banana, zimikand (yam), rice and gud (jaggery). There can be lots side dishes but sambhar and red rice is a must,” she informs.

The affair with delicious delights continues for all 10 days of festivities. However, the most important day of the festival is Thiruvonam, the first day of the festival when Mahabali or Lord Vishnu is invoked.

The grandest feast is served on this day. But the celebrations continue later too. So hop across to your nearest Malayali friend’s house for some great Onam specials. ’Njoy!  

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