All About Sadhya – the main feast of Onam Festival
Happy Onam everybody from all at Purple Poppadom!
Sadhya is the main event of the Onam Festival, otherwise known as the rice harvest festival. This grand event, held in Kerala every year, is always the main part of the calendar, and one that is hotly anticipated. Food is very much at the heart of the festival, particularly when it comes to the main feast of Sadhya.
During Sadhya, a myriad of vegetarian dishes are presented on a banana leaf and served to all in attendance.
A few years ago we celebrated Onam at Purple Poppadom by serving 21 dishes on fresh banana leaves for our guests. This followed a talk by Chef Anand George all about the Sadhya feast.
Here we will take a look at just some of the main dishes that tend to comprise the Sadhya feast, along with some interesting information about each of them.
This is a truly integral dish to the Onam festival, being one of the most-loved foods from this part of Kerala. It consists of mixed vegetables of a huge variety, along with plenty of mixed spices and some coconut which is normally roasted to add extra flavor. Being quite a liquid dish, it is normally served in a pot or bowl, which then sits on the banana leaf with the other dishes. It is a rich and fragrant dish, and one of the first you would normally smell as it appears!
This curry is one of the many savory dishes to be found as part of the Sadhya feast. In a Mor curry, the main base ingredient is buttermilk, which is of course quite unusual for a curry of this kind, but one of the preferred ingredients from the region of Kerala. A Mor curry can also be referred to as Mor Kuzhambu or Pulissery, and it is normally served with plain rice and a dry vegetable mix dish. It is usually regarded as a side dish rather than a main event.
Kalan is a beloved dish in Kerala and beyond, a true delicacy consisting of a yogurt-based sauce a little like a gravy. Ultimately, the Kalan can be thought of as a sour cream curry, and it is normally made primarily of sweet potatoes, along with plantains, coconut and some curd. It is a really delicious meal that many people will want to have more of, especially after the first tasting, and it’s often a highly appreciated part of the feast.
Thoran is essentially a kind of stir-fry dish, consisting entirely of vegetables. There is no hard and fast rule as to what can go in a Thoran, although there are some usual suspects in terms of the main vegetables that you might expect to find in it: normally, it will have something like cabbage, beans, raw jackfruit, or carrot. Or there might be something like grated coconut going through it as well. In all its forms, however, it is known to be a very moreish dish.
We serve Thoran at Purple Poppadom, and it has been on Anand George’s menu since he opened his first restaurant in Cardiff in 2008! Ours is a light and moreish combination of finely julenned vegetables tempered with mustard and fresh coconut.
This is a dish made of pumpkin, perfect at the time of year of the rice harvest when the Onam festival takes place. Because the produce is so fresh, it gives the dish a particularly sumptuous and beautiful flavor, and it is normally filled out with plenty of coconut milk and cow peas. It is usually served with normal rice, or sometimes with red rice as an alternative. In either case, it’s quite a hearty and filling dish.
Because all of this food is normally served on banana leaves, you might not be too surprised to discover that there are also some side dishes that incorporate other parts of the banana plant as well. The perfect example of that is the beautiful Upperi, which are essentially banana chips coated in fine sugar. These are then normally dipped into jaggery syrup, and finally coated with powdered sugar. They are a great sweet treat, often enjoyed towards the end of the feast, although they will be served alongside everything else on the banana leaf.
Finally, we have the Ada Payasam, which is a traditional curry with coconut milk and rice flakes. There are also pieces of rice batter which are soaked in coconut and cardamom. As such, it is both a perfect dish for the celebration of the Onam or rice festival, and also a very rich and deeply satisfying meal. It’s definitely one that would be missed if it were not there alongside the others.
As you can see, there is normally a considerable variety of foods and dishes to be found at the Sadhya, and all of these are going to be considered a vital part of the whole experience. It’s an amazing feast and one to be thoroughly enjoyed.