Food Traditions: The Onam Sadhya is as elaborate as any meal gets! | Niraamaya Wellness Retreats

Food Traditions: The Onam Sadhya is as elaborate as any meal gets!


There can be no onam without the feast. The Onam Sadhya is a very special meal – a complex meal of 12 to 30 dishes and beautiful flavours.

The Onam Sadhya, or onsadaya as it is known, is a beautiful multi-course meal with a host of vegetarian dishes, each one as beautifully complex, or simple, as the other. The 30 dishes that comprise the Onam Sadhya is served on a banana leaf and eaten at lunch. The least you will eat is 12 dishes; the most is 30, served largely in temples.

The beauty of the flavours lies in the fresh ingredients used, the spices and the way they are cooked. The quintessential Onam Sadhya meals include papad or poppadum, banana chips, several pickles, avial, olan, kaalan, thoran mezhukkupuratti and dal topped with ghee or clarified butter, besides rasam, khichadi, coconut chutney and buttermilk. Not to forget that quintessential Kerala dessert, Payasam. The beauty of this meal not just lies in the way it is served, on green banana leaves, or the fact that you eat a virtual 25 dishes, each placed in a particular designated place on the leaf. It also lies in the fact that the meal is a sign that Keralites offer Mahabali, the mythical king who is said to return home for 10 days from his heavenly abode, that they are happy and prosperous and can afford a meal as elaborate as this.
The feasting begins with the ritual of offering the Onam Sadya items to Lord Ganesha. The festive meal begins with rasam (soup) and ends with payasam (dessert). The main dish is boiled rice served with uppari, sambar, aviyal, parippu, pullisseri, olan and pickles.

Chef Prakash, Executive Chef, Niraamaya Retreats offers the recipe of his favourite dish from the Onam Sadhya

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Ingredients for Vada
  • Whole urad dal: ½ cup
  • Crushed peppercorns: ½ tsp
  • Salt: To taste
  • Oil: For frying
  • Onion: 20gm
  • Green chillies: 2–3
  • Crushed ginger: 2tsp
  • Curry leaves: 1 sprig
  • Turmeric powder: ½tsp
  • Red chilli powder: 1tsp
  • Coriander powder: 3tsp
  • For the gravy
  • Curry cucumber: 25gms
  • Garam masala powder: 1tsp
  • Coconut milk: 120ml
  • Salt: to taste
  • For the seasoning
  • Coconut oil: 2 tsp.
  • Mustard seeds: ½ tsp
  • Urad Dhal: ½ tsp
  • Dry red chillies: 3-4
  • Shallots: 15gm
  • Curry leaves: a sprig


  • Soak the urad dal for 3-4 hrs, drain the water and grind the soaked urad dal in a blender adding salt to a fine thick paste. Add only very little water. The batter should be thick and not watery
  • Add ½tsp. crushed peppercorns and enough salt to the batter
  • Heat oil in a deep pan. Make small balls with the batter. The batter should be sticky, so you could grease the palm of your hands with water and make the balls
  • Drop the balls into hot oil; deep fry it till it turns golden brown in colour and keep aside
  • Heat coconut oil in a pan and add onions, green chillies, crushed ginger, curry leaves and little salt till the onions are light gold in colour
  • Add turmeric powder, chilli powder and coriander powder. Sauté until they lose their raw smell. Add cubed curry cucumber. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes
  • Add thin coconut milk and salt to taste. Cover and cook until the cucumber are cooked at medium heat
  • When the curry is read, add garam masala powder, thick coconut milk and a few curry leaves. Bring to a slow boil
  • Add the fried vadas and mix well. Check and adjust salt
  • Remove it from heat and keep covered for some time. The fried vadas will absorb some of the gravy
  • Heat another frying pan, pour oil, add mustard seeds, urad dhal, shallots, dry red chillies and curry leaves and allow it to splutter
  • Now add the seasoning to the koottu curry. This curry tends to thicken over time