Saturday, October 23, 2021

Onam Sadya: A mega banana-leaf feast

The sheer number of dishes on the Sadya (banquet) served at Kerala’s Onam festival will astound you.

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Onam Sadya, the iconic ‘banana leaf feast’ is the way that Kerala says welcome to her favourite king, Mahabali. Every year the state comes together irrespective of caste, creed and religion to celebrate this festival of prosperity.

The Onam Sadya is a lavish affair with at least 24 to 28 dishes served, sometimes even more! The feast is predominantly vegetarian, but there are certain parts of the state that love to include non-vegetarian dishes, even though it’s not traditional.

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The feast is always served on a fresh banana leaf with each dish occupying a specific spot on the leaf. Rice is the predominant element which is to be enjoyed with parippu curry (dal), sambar, rasam and curd along with a range of sides and also plantain chips, pappadum and pickles. The feast ends with the traditional dessert, paayasm (also of different varieties).

Here we have a small selection of some of the favourites that can be prepared easily with locally available ingredients.

Cut Mango Pickle

  • 2 raw mangoes, cut into tiny pieces
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder (add more if you like it really hot)
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • Big handful of curry leaves
  • Salt, to season
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil

(Since I store the pickle in the fridge, I added less oil. You will need to add lots more if you want to keep it outside)

Cut Mango Pickle. Source: Supplied
Cut Mango Pickle. Source: Supplied

Place the chopped mango pieces in a large bowl. Add salt, turmeric powder and chilli powder and rub well into the mango pieces.

Heat oil in a large pan, crackle mustard seeds and add the curry leaves. Add the mango mixture and stir on high flame for 2 minutes. Cool and store. Pickle ready!

Beetroot Thoran
(Stir fry with beets, greens and coconut)

  • 2 medium beetroots with the greens attached
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • Salt, to season
  • 1 tbsp Coconut/vegetable oil
  • For coconut spice mix
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 1-2 green chilies (depending on heat preference)
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic

Beetroot Thoran. Source: Supplied

Peel and grate the beets and finely chop the greens with the stalks. To make the coconut mix, coarsely grind all the ingredients. In a pan, heat oil and crackle mustard seeds. Add curry leaves and dry red chilli. Add the beets and greens; stir fry on high heat for a minute.

Then add the coconut spice mix, season with salt and continue to stir fry on high heat for another 2 minutes. Serve hot with rice or Indian flat breads.

Kootu Curry
(Kerala style Black Chickpea Curry) 


  • 1 cup black chickpeas; washed and soaked overnight
  • 1 medium sized raw plantain; cut into large chunks
  • 100gms yam; diced
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 1 ½ – 2 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chilli
  • Salt, to season

Kootu Curry. Source: Supplied
Kootu Curry. Source: Supplied

To a pressure cooker, add the black chickpeas with 1 ½ cups water, season with salt and cook till 80 per cent done. In another pan, cook the plantain along with red chilli powder, half of the turmeric powder, salt and 1 ½ cups water till done. Drain and keep aside.
Add the diced yams to the black chickpeas and cook till the yams are lightly mushy (use the back of the ladle to mash the yams if necessary). Then add the drained plantain and mix well to combine.

Coarsely crush the grated coconut, peppercorns and garlic in a mortar and pestle or grinder and add this to the cooked chickpeas. Add the remaining turmeric powder and mix well to combine. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Cook in low heat for 1-2 minutes and remove.

To temper, heat coconut oil in a small pan and crackle the mustard seeds. Then add the curry leaves and dry red chilli. Pour this over the prepared chickpeas and mix well to combine. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a bowl of rice and dal/lentils.

(Mixed vegetables in a creamy coconut yoghurt base)


  • ½ cup drumstick vegetable
  • ½ cup plantain
  • ½ cup pumpkin
  • ½ cup potato
  • ½ cup carrot
  • ½ cup beans
  • 4 green chillies, slit
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt, to season
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • 5 tbsp grated coconut
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • Curd/yoghurt, enough to make thick gravy
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil

Avial. Source: Supplied
Avial. Source: Supplied

Cut all the vegetables lengthwise into long strips (the shape matters!). Cook all the vegetables in a pressure cooker with turmeric powder, slit green chillies, salt, curry leaves; no water required. Cook for 1 whistle or 5 minutes, whichever happens first. If you do not have a pressure cooker, then cook in a regular pot; add just enough water to cook the vegetables.

Grind coconut and cumin seeds with a bit of water to a fine paste and add to the boiled vegetables. Add enough curd to this, stirred through to get a creamy consistency.

Prepare tadka or tempering by heating coconut oil and curry leaves. Switch off the flame and add a few drops of water to this and then pour over the dish. There will be some spluttering so make sure the flame is off. Enjoy!

READ ALSO: Tomato soup/shorba recipe to keep you warm this winter

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