Onam Sadhya / Onasadya

Onam Sadhya, popularly called as Onasadya, refers to the grand Onam feast. This delicious feast is considered to be the most elaborate of meals prepared by any culture across the world. It is said that if you enjoy this feast once, you will cherish it for years. There are many onam sadhya recipes available in the internet now that can help you make your own onasadya on Onam festival.

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Story Behind Onam Sadhya

On Thiruonam, the last day of Onam, Onasadya is prepared. According to legend, king Mahabali was very attached to his kingdom and its people and so he requested the Gods to allow him to visit them every year. By preparing this feast, people want to show their beloved king Mahabali (whose spirit is said to visit Kerala during Onam), that they are content and prosperous. This elaborate feast depicts the prosperity and happiness as was experienced during king Mahabali’s reign.

Everybody prepares Onasadya foods as extravagantly as possible as the people are extremely devout and passionate about Onasadya. It is said that men would even sell their houses for one Onasadya.

Onam Sadhya: The Meal

Onam sadhya includes different kinds of recipes and dishes. Rice is one of the essential ingredients of the nine course meal. The feast consists of a total of 11 strictly vegetarian Onam dishes and the number may go up to 13 at times. Onasadya is eaten with hand without spoon and forks.

The traditional onsadya consist of a variety of curries, fried dishes, papads, pickles, chutneys, payasams and prathamans or puddings and fruits.

The banana leaf is considered very auspicious and the food has to be served on a tender leaf. The food is traditionally served out on a mat. The dishes have a set place on the leaf and are to be served in a specific order.

Due to the hectic urban lifestyle, the feast is toned down nowadays. The earlier elaborate Onasadya included about 64 mandatory dishes which consisted of eight varieties of eight dishes. During that time, three banana leaves had to be placed one under the other to accommodate these dishes.

Onam Sadhya Foods

The onam sadhya menu are served in a fixed order. Papad is placed on the extreme left. Banana is served on top of the papad. The order of Onam dishes served from the right are:

  • Papad
  • Banana
  • Sarkara Varatti – banana chip coated with jaggery and upperi
  • On the top left half of the banana lime curry is served
  • Pickle – mostly mango pickle is served
  • Inchicurry or inchipuli
  • Thoran – these are dry vegetables with coconut
  • Olan
  • Avial
  • Pachadi
  • Khichadi

When the people are seated, two big spoons of rice are served in the bottom center of the leaf. Then, parippu curry is served with ghee. Sambhar is then poured on the rice. Kalan or Rasam are served next. Payasam, the sweet dish is served last. This arrangement of food looks quite colorful on the green leaf looks irresistible.

The first served meal is prepared as an offering to Lord Ganapathy which is placed in front of a lighted brass lamp (Nila Vilakku).

Onam Sadhya Recipes

You can find onam sadhya menu below. Note that the onam sadhya recipes may vary depending on the regions.

  • Erissery

This Onam meal prepared from pumpkins/red beans or yam and raw bananas. The spices used to prepare this dish are split green chilies, cumin seeds, ground coconut, red chilies and turmeric. The seasoning used for this is mustard seeds spluttered in oil.

  • Kalan or Pulisseri

This Onam dish is made using buttermilk. Sliced leaves called nenthra-kaya and yamas or chena are used to make this dish. These vegetables are boiled in water with a little salt and chilies. Next they are seasoned with mustard seeds spluttered in oil and flavored with coconut. Here’s recipe for Kalan.

  • Olan

Olan is another popular onam sadhya recipe. It is made from brinjal and sliced cucumber. Pulses may also be added to it. The vegetables and pulses are boiled in water with a little salt. Once cooked, some coconut oil is poured over it. They are seasoned with curry leaves. Here’s Olan Recipe.

  • Avial

This is a mixed vegetable dish and assorted vegetables are used to prepare it. As with other dishes, all the vegetables are boiled in water with salt and chilies. Tamarind and coconut pulp are used for flavoring and curry leaves are used for seasoning. Here’s Avial recipe.

  • Thoran

To prepare Thoran, beetroot and many other vegetables are cut into small pieces. These vegetables are boiled in water with salt and chilies till the water dries. If excess water remains after cooking the vegetables it is strained. A seasoning of coconut pulp and mustard spluttered in oil is added to these vegetables.

  • Mulakoshyam

This dish is similar to Olan. It is a simple curry dish made with pumpkin and parippu. Toor dal is cooked in water. Then pumpkin is cooked in water with salt, chilies and turmeric powder along with the cooked toor dal. It is then seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil.

  • Koottukari

Bengal gram is cooked with a variety of vegetables. The only difference between this dish and Avial is that tamarind is not used in this dish.

  • Sambar

An extremely popular Onam meal from South India, this is relished all over India. It is prepared with dal and a variety of vegetables like bitter gourd, drum sticks and brinjal. Vegetables are first boiled in water and salt and chilies. Tamarind is used for flavoring. The other spices used are cumin seeds, coriander seeds which are fried in oil and then crushed and mixed into the sambhar. It is also flavored with mustard seeds. Here’s “Sambar recipe.

  • Pachchati, Kichchati

These are different types of curries made from cucumber, sour butter milk and mustard. This is quite popular during grand celebration like Onam Festival.

  • Rasam

This is another popular dish from South India and is made from tomatoes and tamarind juice. For seasoning mustard seeds and bay leaves are spluttered in oil and poured over the tomatoes. People usually eat rasam with rice. Here’s a recipe for “Tomato Rasam“.

  • Payasam

This is a sweet dish or a kind of a pudding. Boiled potatoes are mixed with coconut milk and molasses. Spices are used for flavoring. Another method of preparing this dish is to mix sugar with rice cooked in milk. Here’s “Payasam Recipe“.

  • Prathaman

This is another type of a pudding dish made from jaggery, milk and ghee.

  • Beverages

Ginger water is specially made for Onam festival in which water is boiled with cumin seeds and ginger. It also serves as a digestive drink.

  • Upperi or Chips

Upperi or chips are made from a variety of things such as raw bananas, chena, bitter gourd brinjal and jack fruit. These fruits are sliced in circular pieces and deep fried in coconut to until they are crisp.

  • Pickles (Achaar)

Pickles need to be prepared in advance for Onasadya as marinating in spices is very important. Pickles are made from mango, lemon, ginger and chilies.

  • Papads (Pappadam)

Papads are made from Urad dal, black grams and fried in oil. Papads are rolled into three sizes of large, medium and small.

  • Fruits

Fruits of various kinds are also used in meals.