The Sadya or a feast, that is typical of the state of Kerala in Southern India aptly named God’s own Country, is served to celebrate anything from a birthday to a festival to a wedding, is the single most awe inspiring vegetarian fare you can ever eat!
There are typically about 16-20 dishes or more and there is a subtle variation in the dishes and the way they are made, depending on which part of Kerala you are eating the sadya at. This feast is served on banana leaves and you have to sit on the floor to eat this feast. Though, people do serve sadya on the leaf on a dining table but the fun of it is to sit on the floor cross legged and enjoy this wonderfully put together feast. Be assured that by the time you get done with the sadya you are most likely to have pins and needles on your legs!
The top half of the leaf is reserved for the vegetable sides where as the bottom half is for the rice and the different curries that go over the rice. There is a certain order in which these various dishes are served on the banana leaf. Again this varies a little from region to region in Kerala. Some folks start out with salt or pickle, others start out with payasam (a sweet pudding). In the end, it doesn’t matter, as you are going to eat it all. Also, there is no order to eating them except for the various courses that are served. But you don’t have to worry about that part, those who are serving will have to.
There are the pickles and condiments that range from Mango pickle, Lime / Lemon pickle to the more exotic Goose Berry pickle etc but the winner in this category is the hot, sweet and sour pickle called Inji Puli that is made with ginger, jaggery and tamarind – it is a half chutney – half pickle type of condiment. The Indian style of pickles are almost always made with fiery red chillies, lots of oil and salt to balance out the heat and sometimes a little bit of fenugreek to help out with the effect of the heat on your stomach. There is always a science behind the various different ingredients that go in such dishes.
Then there are the vegetable sides which are usually the Kichadi – a spicy and sour coconut based thick curry, the Pachadi – a sweet and sour coconut based thick curry, Thorans – sautés of various vegetables or combination of vegetables with coconut, Avial – a culinary genius invention, a mish mash of various different vegetables in a coconut yogurt sauce (believed to have been invented when there was only a lot of left over vegetables that was not enough to make anything substantial by just one vegetable alone), Kalan – again a thicker sauce of coconut and yogurt base, that usually has raw plantain as the hero vegetable in it. Olan – a coconut milk base curry that is on the sweeter side, Erisseri – made with a variety of vegetables but the most common ones are with pumpkin or raw plantain and the beans in it gives it somewhat of a substance to it.
And don’t forget the pappadams, though!!
Sadya dishes made at home for one Onam – all ready to be served to our guests.
The courses are defined by the saucier curries that are poured over the rice. All courses will still have all those vegetable sides that were initially served and you can have multiple servings of that. Sambar is one of the more common of such curries that is served across South India, not just Kerala. Then there are the Pulissery-ies, that are again a coconut-yogurt sauce base usually with a sweet fruit as the main ingredient in it – ripe mango, pineapple, ripe plantains etc. Rasam is a hot and sour soup of sorts, that, if anything needs to be skipped in this section, most prefer to skip this.
It, of course, ends with a course or sometimes multiple courses of dessert. Dessert is always payasam – how it becomes multiple courses is when there are many types of payasams made. By this time you are so done and done, but you still want to inhale all those deliciously sweet payasams and you do, shamelessly. After all, you don’t make these banquet type meals everyday!
I hope you enjoy this delicious collection of recipes I have put together for you. I know, it might seem overwhelming, but trust me, this feast deserves this!
Pickles and Condiment Sides
Ozhichu Koottan / Saucier Curries (Curries that are poured over the rice which roughly makes up for the different courses)
Payasam ( Dessert Puddings made with Milk and Sugar or Coconut Milk and Jaggery as base)