The Malayalam month of Chingam is when Kerala gets ready to celebrate the harvest festival, Onam. Sadya or the traditional vegetarian feast is an unavoidable part of the Onam festivities. Even though celebrations would be limited, this year too, owing to the strict Covid 19 protocols, it isn’t complete without the sumptuous sadya that is served on plantain leaf.
The typical sadya is elaborate and the flavors are well balanced. Moreover, the dishes are loaded with vitamins, minerals and all essential nutrients that are excellent immunity boosters. It is an amazing meal that includes all the nutrients that are required for a healthy adult in a day. Usually, the traditional Onasadya contains different types of vegetarian dishes. Matta rice, dal, pappad, ghee, plantain chips, banana, various kinds of pickles, pachadi, kichadi, aviyal, sambar, thoran (stir fry), olan, kaalan, koottu curry, rasam, buttermilk and payasam (dessert) are the main dishes in an Onasadya. Interestingly, every dish has its own significance in the elaborate platter. There is a special way in which they are to be served and eaten.
Rice with bran is a store house of B complex vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Besides, rice contains healthy fibers too. Diabetic patients and those who suffer from life style diseases could have rice as it has less glycemic index. Rice with bran is loaded with phyto nutrients too. 80% of the manganese that is required for a day could be had from rice with bran. Meanwhile, the fibers would help reduce the fat in the body.
Dal, ghee and pappad
These are the dishes that are usually served in the first round of the sadya. Rice is first mixed with thick and mildly spicy dal. Besides adding great flavor, a few drops of ghee make the meal aromatic too. Meanwhile, the crumbled pappad add the perfect crunchy texture. Dal contains iron, potassium and calcium that regulate the blood pressure.
Ghee is loaded with vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin A is excellent for eye sight while vitamin E makes your skin glow. Vitamin D is a great absorber of calcium.
There is a popular saying in the culinary world that inji curry is tantamount to 100 different dishes. Often served on the left end of the plantain leaf, inji curry made with ginger and other aromatics and spices aids digestion. The anti oxidants in ginger boost immunity. This dish has vitamins A, D, E, B, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and calsoum. Ginger can effectively fight viruses, fungal infections and toxins.
The vitamin C and flavonoids in mangoes and lime are amazing for the body. Limes are store houses of minerals, vitamin B and potassium. Moreover, the citric acid in limes and lemon eases digestion too.
Refreshing cucumbers and beetroots are mostly used for making kichadi which is known as a palette cleanser. Cucumbers have the ability to flush out toxins from our body. Besides, it makes the bones stronger and healthier too.
Varieties of pachadi could be made using ingredients like pineapple, beetroot and pumpkin. The enzyme called bromelaine in pineapple cures indigestion. Besides, beetroot contains folic acid, iron, zinc and carbohydrate. Meanwhile, pumpkin has alpha carotene, beta carotene, fibers, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. The vitamin A in it helps in improving eye sight too.
Aviyal made with lots of veggies and coconut is considered a main item in sadya. Loaded with vitamins and minerals, aviyal is one of the healthiest dishes on the platter. Meanwhile, the fibers in it help reduce body weight and fights mal nutrition.
Known for its mouthwatering aroma and taste, sambar is an all round dish as it is made with a variety of vegetables and spices. The fibers in it keep away constipation. Dal which is a main ingredient in sambar is a great source of protein.
Pulissery, buttermilk and rasam
The calcium and vitamin D in buttermilk are essential to maintain dental health. Moreover, it contains healthy bacteria that are essential for the body. These bacteria effectively fights indigestion and ensure gut health. These dishes contain potassium, phosphorous, zinc, iodine and riboflavin. The aromatic rasam prepared with spices aids digestion.
The Onasadya is incomplete without a sumptuous payasam or dessert. Interestingly, payasam is a versatile dish that could be made using a variety of ingredients. However, ada pradhaman and pal payasam (milk payasam) are the most commonly prepared desserts for a traditional sadya. Payasams that are prepared using jaggery has iron, zinc, potassium and other essential minerals in them. Meanwhile, the rich pal payasam contains calcium, phosphorous and protein.
The author is the chief clinical nutritionist at SUT Hospital, Pattam.