UAE: Onam festival comes early; restaurants dish out gourmet meals

Over the last few years, the demand for Onasadhya has risen exponentially


Nasreen Abdulla

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At the popular Indian restaurant Lallumma’s, sadhya has been planned for over 15 days in two locations. — Supplied photo
At the popular Indian restaurant Lallumma’s, sadhya has been planned for over 15 days in two locations. — Supplied photo

Published: Wed 23 Aug 2023, 9:25 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Aug 2023, 10:27 PM

One of the best parts about living in Dubai is the opportunity to experience various traditional cuisines. The feast that accompanies the harvest festival of the southern Indian state of Kerala — Onam — is one such experience. Served at lunchtime on a banana leaf with over 25 curries and rice, it is a unique meal.

Over the last few years, the demand for this feast — called Onasadhya (Onam feast) — has risen exponentially with people of various nationalities flocking to try the all-vegetarian fare. With Onam just around the corner, restaurants around the country are starting to serve the sadhya early and over various times to cater to the burgeoning demand.

The Indian fine dining restaurant The Crossing is teaming up with self-taught chef Simy Mathews to plate up a gourmet sadhya over 9 days for dinner as well as lunch. Served as three menus of vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian, the price of the sadhya starts at Dh175.

Thiruvonam, or the main day of Onam, will fall on Tuesday, August 29. It will come at the end of a ten-day celebration that begins with Atham.

“We have received an immense amount of interest,” said chef Simy. “Since most places serve sadhya only as lunch, there were many who couldn’t try it because they are working. That is why we decided to start the dinner menu. The seats are being booked out really quickly.”

While most of the dishes have been preserved in its authentic form, she along with head chef Jithin Joshi have given the payasam (dessert) a unique gourmet twist. Two or three kinds of payasam- a pudding of pouring consistency- is served at every sadhya. At The Crossing, two kinds of payasam have been layered and topped with coconut foam to create a fine dining dessert. The two chefs shared a video of them trying it out

Sadhya for 15 days

At the popular Indian restaurant Lallumma’s, sadhya has been planned for over 15 days in two locations. “Every year we have a lot of enquiries, and this year is no different,” said restaurant co-owner and head chef Fathima Arzoo. “We have already received bookings to have in-house sadhya for 15 days across our outlets in Karama and Qusais. There are more orders for deliveries and takeaways as well

According to Fathima, the restaurant served their first sadhya on August 19. “It seems this year, people wanted to get an early start on their sadhya, so we had enquiries for last weekend,” she said. “So, we decided to host it then. This would also give us enough time to streamline our processes and make sure everything is going well when Onam begins. It is hard work to ensure good quality sadhya especially as almost all dishes contain coconut, which can go bad if not handled properly.”

The restaurant will serve a sadhya including 33 items throughout the week of Onam and on almost all weekends in September.

Reliving Memories

Cloud kitchen owner Natasha Farookis running a payasam festival at her restaurant Pepper Lane during the Onam period, as an homage to her childhood memories. “I grew up in Thrissur and every Onam the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) would run a payasam festival over ten days,” she said. “So, every day we would check in the newspaper which was the payasam of the day and go have it with my full family including cousins.”

In an attempt to recreate that memory, Natasha is running a five-day festival serving four different types of payasam. “There have been enquiries about it but the big demand is for the sadhya,” she said. “We have had a lot of bookings and people are also enquiring for the weekend after Onam.”

The restaurant is serving up a mini sadhya of just 14 items for the days of Onam while reserving the full sadhya for the weekend. “Since Onam is the middle of the week, we though people might want something lighter after which they can go back to office.”

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