Onam Recipes

Onam Recipes

onam recipes Onam Recipes

onam dishes Onam Recipes


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Onam is the predominant festival of Kerala, which takes place during the month of (August/September). The story behind this festival goes something like this….

Long ago it was the Asura Monarch ‘Mahabali’, who reigned over Kerala. His rule was so benign and he was so much loved, that the gods became jealous. Fearful that their subjects would turn away from them, Lord  Vishnu reincarnated himself as ‘Vamana’, a Brahmin dwarf. He tricked Mahabali and banished him to the Netherworld, ‘Patala’.

Before leaving, however, Mahabali was granted the wish that he may return every year to inquire after the well being of his people. The ‘Onam’ festival celebrates the Annual return of Mahabali.

Although based on this story, this is a festival celebrated across Kerala by all religions. At the core of this festival is the Onam Sadhya (Sadya) which is the vegetarian feast prepared in honor of this unseen guest.

Although the items prepared for Onam Sadhya, vary slightly from region to region, the common items include Avial, Veg Stew (Istoo), Erisseri, Kalan, Olan, Pachadi, Kichadi and Kootu curry. Different types of Thoran are also served. All these are small sides where as the main curry for the rice is provided by a Sambar or Pulisseri. Small sweet Banana, Sweet and savory banana chips , pickles and pappadam are also served. There is also a sweet, sour  and spicy Inchi Curry and a plain dal curry (Parippu) at two ends of the spectrum.. Finished with a sweet Payasam, the Onam Sadhya is complete.

The sadhya, itself is classified mainly into two types: the ‘four item sadhya’ or ‘Naalukootan sadhya’ and the ‘eight item sadhya’ or  ‘Ettukootan sadhya’. The first four are istoo, avial, errisery and kalan. The next four, which make up the ‘Ettukootan sadhya’ are kootucurry, pachadi, kichadi and olan. A thoran or mezhukkupurrati (stir fry with or without coconut) is also often included.

Now, not only is the type of dish an important part of the Onam Sadhya, but how it is served is particularly special. Sadhya is always served on banana leaves and the style of serving follows certain rules. Failing to comply with these rules at an open sadhya can often invite rather angry comments 🙂 The banana leaf used comes from the end of the whole leaf and is called the ‘Naakilla’ or the ‘tongue’ of the banana leaf. The narrow end of the leaf should be placed on the guest’s left. The spine of the leaf is taken as the dividing line. and the majority of the curries are placed over the dividing line. Where I live, it is not always easy to get a large enough banana leaf with a dividing line, so we adjust accordingly. I have also received conflicting arguments where the pickles and chutney is placed above the dividing line on the extreme left, whereas I have often seen it placed on the bottom left too. The majority of curry items is placed above the dividing line and the rice. Apart from the rice, sambar and pullissery all the items are placed on the leaf prior to the guests seating.

sadya Onam Recipes

Picture of the Nakkilla and positioning of items on Madhyamam.com


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Delicious Onam Recipes



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