Onasadya: feast for the senses

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Onasadya: feast for the senses
Onasadhya is among the must-awaited feature of the Onam festival

Dig into a sumptuous platter of vegetarian delights


Farhana Chowdhury

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Published: Mon 9 Sep 2019, 9:57 AM

Food is central to festivities, no matter the culture or belief, and the onasadya lives up to its grandeur with an impressive platter of delectable dishes spread on a banana leaf. With no less than 24 dishes served, each item is intricately placed on and around the leaf, so as to let the guest indulge their tastebuds into a savoury and sweet experience.

As the whole concept of Onam focuses on new harvests, the meal is traditionally vegetarian, consists of curries, pickles, as well as desserts known as payasam, and is eaten by hand. With the banana leaf pointing to the left of the seated guest, the feast is laid out in such an order that gives the diner enough time to enjoy each dish, as they eat their fill. The sequence is comfortable on the stomach, allowing guests to digest the heavy meal at ease. Interestingly, a hearty serving of rice is served last, once the other dishes have been positioned.  

Onasadhya is among the must-awaited feature of the Onam festival. Served on Thiruvonam day, it happens to be the most auspicious of the 10-day festival. While the state of Kerala stands united in celebrations, the components of an onasadya feast is different from region to region. Besides having different dishes as a starting meal, some incorporate non-vegetarian options, such as chicken and mutton, into the traditional vegetarian fare.

In the UAE, there are a number of restaurants and eateries that recreate different types of onasadya to help the expatriate community feel closer to home. These meal options are not just limited to those celebrating Onam, but also welcome others to enjoy the experience.   

Common dishes in an onasadya:

Banana leaf: Bringing diners one step closer to nature, this serves as a plate to hold the lip-smacking portions that make up the great onasadya feast.

Aviyal: A staple, the curry features a delicious blend of vegetables simmered in coconut and yoghurt gravy and green chillies. The dish is then topped with fresh coconut oil and garnished with curry leaves.

Sambar: A special stew of lentils, vegetables and spices. Just as with other dishes, coconut is one of the main ingredients in the preparation.

Thoran: A dry combination of grated coconut blended with finely chopped jackfruit, bittergourd, chillies, cabbage, beans, etc. This concoction is then sautéed over a hot fire with mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric.

Olan: Boasting subtle flavours, olan features pumpkin and red grams cooked with coconut milk and ginger.

Pappadams: Made with black gram flour, a pappadam is a round, thin and crispy snack that serves as an appetiser.

Sharkara upperi: Banana chips coated in jaggery, seasoned with cumin powder and ginger, then deep-fried in coconut oil make the perfect snack in between the hearty onasadya.

Pickles: The varieties are unlimited, but mango and lemon pickles are the most common.

- farhana@khaleejtimes.com

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