All About Kerala Sadhya or the Banana Leaf Banquet – with Kerala Sadhya Pics and Dishes
Every year, in the tropical southern state of Kerala, a vegetarian meal fit for a king is prepared during festivals such as Onam and Vishu. The Kerala Sadhya is famously dubbed as the “King’s Feast” with around 20+ delicious dishes and sides prepared and served carefully on a large banana leaf. This elaborate preparation runs on the ayurvedic philosophy which mixes and merges salt and sweet tastes along with sourness, bitterness and acidic tastes – all at once in a single meal!
Challenge you say? One look at these dishes and you will be drooling!
Main course: par boiled rice
This traditional meal begins with laying a medium size banana leaf on the ground, with the smaller end facing the right. Guests usually sit on the floor with their legs crossed.
Then, a huge dumpling of par boiled rice is heaped at the lower half of the banana leaf. A little pit is dug up at the center of the mount, which is soon filled up with hot flowing sambhar. Sambhar is essentially a watery dish made in tamarind juice. More on it later.
Main Kerala sadhya curries and side dishes:
Most side dishes and curries in the sadhya contain coconut. Pure coconut oil lends the highest flavour to the curries. So most often, people use coconut oil for the sadhya preparation.
Now there are a huge number of traditional dishes in Kerala family homes, but the main ones are:
Thoran – a dry dish made of coconut, cabbage, jackfruit or peas. A Kerala household staple.
Avial – a mélange of steamed carrots, beans, drumsticks and other vegetables in a coating of curd and coconut milk.
Pachadi – Again a coconut preparation, with boiled vegetables (usually cucumbers, squash, winter melons, mango, pineapple, beetroot, bitter gourd), seasoned with mustard and curry leaves. Pachadis can be sweet and sour depending on preference. Curd is also optional.
Kichadi – a pure cucumber and curd mix. Sometimes, you can see this with okra and bitter guard also.
Olan – a whitish flowing curry consisting of ash gourd, brown peas or pumpkin in a lather of coconut milk.
Mezhukkuperatti – a stir fry preparation with raw plantain, beans and sometimes a bit of peas.
Potato milk curry – a loosely boiled potato curry in a broth of coconut milk. This also comes in spicy flavors with onions and chilly.
Kootu curry – a bit of chick peas and raw bananas cooked to thick perfection in a bed of coconut.
Erissery – brown peas or red beans steamed with pumpkin paste.
Liquid curries or ozhichu curries:
Sambhar – a rich concoction of steamed vegetables (carrots, okra, tubers, beetroot, potato, eggplant) and thoor dhal in thick tamarind broth.
Moru or buttermilk – diluted curd water, flavored with mustard, curry leaves, ginger and chilly.
Parippu – well-cooked moong dhal loosely seasoned with Kerala flavors.
Kaalan – a flowing yellow dish made with loose curd, coconut and a few cooked yams, mango or plantain pieces.
Rasam – a clear sour soup made of tomato and tamarind extract, dry and green chilies, ginger, mustard and curry leaves.
Banana chips or upperi – who wouldn’t love these crisply fried banana slices as a side for any meal?
Sarkara varatti – jaggery coated banana chips – sweet yet hard. Perfect to crunch along in between the mouthfuls of steamed rice!
Mango pickle – Kerala sadhya is incomplete without this chilly raw mango pickle!
Lemon pickle – lick into the tanginess of lemon pickle!
Inji curry – a thick hot combination of gingery, jaggery or green chilies – you’ll be confused whether to feel sweet or hot in the mouth!
Payasam – The creamy sweetness of palada payasam or ada pradhaman completes the main course. These rice-based desserts are cooked in milk and come in flavors of jackfruit, vermicelli, jaggery, wheat, pineapple, banana, sweet mango and peas. Usually, two payasams are served, with toppings of fried cashews, raisins and sometimes a bit of cardamom also.
Its not uncommon to become confused while eating the sadhya. With so many curries and accompaniments, its difficult to allow your tastebuds to rest on any one flavour for long!
Pappad – crispy rice flour wafers which lend a crunch to your rice and payasam. Similar to tortillas.
Plantain – People traditionally eat these sweet bananas towards the end of the meal. They squish it with their hands and mix it with the payasam and pappad.
Ghee – top the rice with an oozing spoon of clarified butter or ghee or neyy (as colloquially known!)
Salt – a pinch of salt, just if you need a little extra!
Boiled water – often, warm water boiled with karingali (black clutch) or coriander. The best aide for digestion after a hefty meal!
The elaborate Kerala sadhya
With so many Kerala sadhya pics, its almost a task not to drool! Ideally, one should eat the meal in stages and with a bit of every curry in every mix. The mix gives a mouthful of bursting flavor and also arouses your taste buds for the next course!
Kerala sadhya on the East Coast – the best Indian restaurants in the DMV area – Click here to read.
Here’s an account on the serving style and etiquette in detailed Kerala sadhya pics!
It’s quite natural to feel overwhelmed with so much of food all in one platter! But you haven’t seen anything until you eat this mother-of-all-sadhyas: a 101 curry sadhya!
Twenty chefs of the Al Saj Group of Hotels at Trivandrum in Kerala prepared this enormous sadhya for Onam festival season. They made this banana leaf platter for a few lucky guests (50 in number) who got to enjoy all 101 curries on the menu.
That’s 14 varieties of thoran, 13 pickles, more than 11 kichadis, 9 types of pachadis and mezhukkuperattis and 4 varieties of upperis! It also featured the natively famous Ambalapuzha pal payasam!
While the usual Kerala sadhya has around 24 dishes, the Aranmula Vallasadhya has the most number of curries – 44 in total.
More about Kerala
The Kerala sadhya is native to the southern state of Kerala in India. The lush tropical state is a mix of palm-fringed beaches, coconut tree lagoons and tranquil backwaters. Its also home to the world-famous Tellicherry black pepper, a prize which was much sought out during the earlier centuaries.
Here are a couple of glimpses of Keralan backwaters as explored on a wooden houseboat:
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