How Kerala serves its grand Onasadya in style

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The grand Onam celebrations at colleges and offices have taken a back seat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, people are eager to enjoy the Onasadya which is the highlight of the Onam celebrations. The traditional Onasadya, served on a fresh plantain leaf, is delicious and nutritious and is filled with interesting flavours as well. Here are some interesting facts about the sadya that is an essential part of Kerala cuisine.

Pride of Kerala

Every Keralite desires to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal on the day of Thiruonam. Though the flavors and dishes may vary, the concept of Onasadya has great prominence in the Malayali culture. Keralites take great pride in Onasadya and treats this unique meal with the respect that it deserves. Interestingly, no other state in the country can boast of such an elaborate and vivid culinary experience.

The method

Sadya is traditionally served on a fresh plantain leaf. The person sits on the floor with crossed legs on a thazhapaya (pine leaf mat). The leaf is laid in front of the person with its tip pointing to the left side. Papad is placed on the left end of the leaf and the banana would be placed just above it. Salt is served on the right side of the papad.

The place of the plantain chips and sarkkaravaratti are on the lower left of the leaf. Various pickles (mango, lime), inji curry and inji thairu would be served from the left to the right. It would then be followed by olan, kichadi, pachadi, avial and thoran (stir fry). After serving all the dishes, the rice would be served right in the center of the plantain leaf.

The courses

The rice should be separated into two sections as soon as it is served on the leaf. Dal and fresh ghee would be served on top of the rice on the right side. Papad could be crumbled over it to enjoy it as the first course. Sambar is served on the rice on the left side. In the Malabar region, sambar is made by dry roasting coconut and coriander seeds. In the Northern parts, rice wouldn’t be served whenever new courses or dishes are served. Not more than a second helping of rice and dishes are served here. Dishes like pulisery and kalan are served in the second course.

Ada prathaman or parippu prathaman are the payasams that are commonly served for Onasadya. Some people prefer mixing banana with the payasam that is served in the centre of the leaf. Meanwhile, in some places, crumbled papad too are mixed with the payasam. The buttermilk is enjoyed in the end as the sourness would balance the sweetness of the payasam. Besides, the spiced buttermilk that has green chilies, curry leaves, and ginger in it aids digestion as well.

Burst of flavours

Sadya is a perfect blend of spiciness, sourness, bitterness, sweetness, and umami as well. The ingredients that are added in the dishes would differ depending upon local produces and cultural practices. In Northern Kerala, bitter gourd is added in avial. Fresh yoghurt too is added along with coconut paste. Meanwhile, in the southern parts, tamarind is used instead of yoghurt. Tomatoes too are added in avial in some places.

Special upperi

Upperi or stir-fries are vital in a traditional Onasadya. In southern parts of Kerala, vegetables like snake beans, eggplant and elephant foot yam are roasted in coconut oil and are served as mezhukkupuratty. These dishes are called upperi in the northern parts. However, the term upperi means crunchy plantain chips and sarkkaravaratty in the southern part.

Fish and meat

In some parts in Northern Kerala, fish curry is served for Onasadya. Chicken dishes too are served on the plantain leaf. However, in the central and southern parts, the traditional sadya is always vegetarian.

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