On the day of Onam, it is not just the Malayalee community of Kerala that looks forward to the ‘sadya’ – a feast fit for the gods. With restaurants across the country now offering special treats, even non-Keralites have begun to enjoy this fare
Talk about the festivals of Kerala and Onam, without a shade of doubt, tops the list. Such is the fervour with which it is celebrated that the enjoyment begins to be shared by not just the Malayalee community but people of all faiths. This harvest festival is celebrated to remember King Mahabali, whose spirit, Keralites believe, visits ‘God’s Own Country’ every Onam. Surprisingly, while Onam was mostly restricted to South India a few years back, the joy and merriment has now reached the northern regions too, especially Delhi – more so when it comes to the exclusive Onam meal.
Restaurants in Delhi, for instance, now mark this day to incorporate special Onam dishes in their menu and the demand has been on a great upward spiral. “We love to have an Onam meal along with our friends and colleagues from Kerala,” says an IT professional based in Delhi. The celebration of Onam is certainly incomplete without ‘sadya’, a veritable feast that consists of a variety of vegetarian curries with boiled rice, ‘upperi’ (banana chips), ‘pappadams’, and ‘khichadi’ – all served on a huge plantain leaf. Fresh coconut oil and ‘payasam’ are also served with them.
Elaborating about the ‘sadya’, Ganesh Rao, chef entrepreneur at Searock Cookhouse, says “Onam is such a festival that it brings together people of all religious faiths and creates a feeling of harmony and happiness. The food reflects that spirit. The special dishes that we offered on this occasion included varieties of curries like ‘pineapple pulissery’ (curd-based gravy), ‘eriserry’ (spicy curry), ‘olan’ (black-eyed peas), ‘kalan’ (ripe banana), ‘adapradhaman’ (crispy rice fillet dessert), and ‘thoran’ (seasonal vegetables).”
Yet another leading restaurant that offered a special Onam feast this year was Mahabelly, which offered both lunch and dinner treats at Rs 888 per person. The meal included dishes like ‘serkara peratti’, ‘avial’, ‘pineapple khichadi’ and ‘mango pulissery’. On the day of Onam, such was the rush of table bookings that Mahabelly had to stop taking reservations and opted for walk-ins on a ‘first come first serve’ basis. At the Zambar Restaurant, the traditional Onam feast comprised a set of 27 dishes that included ‘sharkara opperi’, ‘nendran chips’, ‘jackfruit chips’, ‘kootu curry’ and ‘cabbage thoran’.
“The response was amazing. We served almost 200+ guests for lunch and had to close advance bookings for dinner. People come to us because we follow the traditional way of cooking the ‘sadya’ and this is popular among both Keralities and those from outside Kerala,” says Vineet Manocha, Senior Vice President (Culinary) at Lite Bite Foods. As per reports, restaurants in other parts of the country too reported good business on the day of Onam. “We had a good number of in-house and outside guests coming for lunch. Our feast comprised more than 25 dishes representing different parts of Kerala,” says Gokil Anandam, Food and Beverage Manager, Gokulam Grand Hotel and Spa.
“One of the major attractions was a live station for serving hot ‘porotta’ and freshly made ‘dosa’. Every guest who dined with us thoroughly enjoyed the meal,” he adds. “We too had a packed house and the enjoyment was clearly visible on the faces of our customers. The ‘sadya’ has gained in popularity over the years and it gives an opportunity to non-Keralites to have a taste of something that is so different from the usual Mughlai or Continental cuisines. It is the sheer variety of dishes in a ‘sadya’ that makes it so appealing,” says Gaurav Anand, Executive Chef, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway.