The Onam Sadya Post

I am back from my long break and still reeling from the crazy schedule that I thought was my vacation. But trips to India have always been like that. Too many commitments, a lot of travelling to meet relatives and general humdrum. I have already declared to my husband that I need another vacation to recuperate from this one. I  missed Bahrain and felt like I was back home when I landed here. I also missed my little nook that is my blog and ached to write everyday. I actually wrote little notes behind  books in an attempt to note down the ideas. But now that I am back, I feel lethargy restraining me with all its slimy tentacles and even after a week ( well almost) I haven’t posted a single thing in my space. Finally, after a little nudge from my mother this morning, I decided to do a post about Onam Sadya which has been long languishing in my drafts. This post is more from my need to document my mother’s recipes than anything else.

Onam is the most important festival  for all Hindu Keralites.  The festival commemorates Mahabali’s yearly homecoming ( to His kingdom which was the beautiful state of Kerala)  after being sent down to the underworld  by Vaman (dwarf), the fifth avatar of Vishnu. The highlight of this festival is the lavish sadya ( feast) which includes various mouth – watering items grandly served on a banana leaf. Funnily, I have never had the opportunity to celebrate this beautiful festival in my home state where it is celebrated with much gusto and fervour. Boat races, intricate flower carpets, traditional dances are some of the festivities that are the mark of typical Onam celebrations in the state.

It has been quite a while that I had been meaning to document my mother’s recipes for all the Sadya ( feast) items. Finally, this Onam ( which was on the 9th of September) I managed to get down to it with my mother’s help, ofcourse. I had invited some friends ( all non- Keralites) over for an elaborate luncheon. It seemed like everybody did enjoy the feast and that gave me every ounce of satisfaction for all the effort that went into preparing this feast. I had made a total of 9 items excluding the pickle and banana chips which were store-bought. Here I shall be detailing only the curries and the rice pudding in particular.

Onam Sadya 

Recipe for Sambar

Serves 6


Toor dal/ yellow pigeon peas  – 1 cup

Drumsticks – 4 nos. ( Cut into smaller pieces.Alternately, you could use any vegetable, such as okra, bottle gourd, brinjals, pumpkin etc)

Tomatoes – 2 nos.

Tamarind –  lemon- sized soaked in warm water

Salt as per taste

Turmeric powder- half a teaspoon

For the Masala

Coriander seeds – 2 tablespoons

Dried red chilly -8 nos. ( You could reduce the number to reduce the heat)

Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 teaspoon

Asafoetida- 1 teaspoon

Onion cut into pieces – 1 No.

Grated coconut – 1 cup

For tempering

Mustard seeds,  dry red chilly and curry leaves, and oil

Garnish – coriander leaves (optional)


1. Cook dal in water with salt and turmeric.

2. Cook drumsticks pieces separately in water.

3. Fry all the masala ingredients with little oil until light brown and keep aside. When the masala has cooled to room temperate grind it using little water into a paste. Add this to the cooked dal and cooked drumsticks and let it all cook on medium heat for some time.

4. To this add tamarind water and let it all cook some more. Taste in between and realize the taste change primarily because the raw taste of masala has been replaced by this gorgeous cooked masala flavour.

5.  Add water if the gravy seems too thick until it seems equal a pouring consistency.

6. To this add the tempering for which oil is first heated in a frying pan. When the oil is sufficiently hot, add the tempering ingredients and wait until the mustard seeds have spluttered and the other ingredients have changed colour. Pour this tempering on the gravy with drumsticks and dal.

7. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Recipe for Erissery Recipe


Yam –  cut in to cubes- 1 cup

Raw banana cut int0 small pieces – 1 cup

Turmeric powder- 1/4 teaspoon

chilly powder- 1/2 teaspoon

pepper powder – 1/2 teaspoon


coconut grated – 2 cups

Cumin seeds – 1/4 teaspoon

oil – 1/4 cup

Curry leaves

Mustard seeds – 1/4 teaspoon


1. Cook yam  and raw banana with turmeric powder, chilly powder, pepper powder and salt.( don’t overcook) in very little water.

2. Grind 3/4 cup of coconut and cumin seeds.  Add to the cooked veg. and boil . Remove from heat

3. Then heat oil in a frying pan, splutter mustard seeds and then add remaining coconut grated and when it turns brown add curry leaves. Pour the tempering into the Erissery prepared.

Recipe for Avial


 Yam  – 1 cup ( all veggies cut into one inch long pieces)

Raw banana- 1  cup

elavan (Ash guard)-  1 cup

carrot -1/2 cup

Pumpkin-1/2 cup

ginger ( optional) 1 small piece cut in long pieces

Raw mango ( optional) 1 small piece cut in to long pieces

turmeric powder-1 teaspoon

chilly powder- 1 teaspoon


3 coconut grated -2 cups

tamarind 1/2 small lemon size

Yogurt ( should be a little sour) – 1 cup

green chillies- 4-5 ( reduce the number if you want to reduce the heat)

butter or coconut oil – 1  tablespoon

curry leaves


1. Cook all the vegetables in a thick bottomed vessel or non-stick vessel with minimum water along with turmeric, chilly powder and salt,

2. Coarsely grind the grated coconut, tamarind, green chillies and yogurt  and add to the cooked vegetables.Boil till the water gets evaporated .

3. Then remove from heat and add butter or coconut oil and curry leaves and mix

Recipe for Cabbage Thoran


Cabbage grated or chopped fine – 2 cups

coconut, grated- 1 cup

turmeric- 1/4 teaspoon


green chillies- 5-6 ( reduce to lower the heat)

one onion – cut int pieces

Mustard seeds- 1/2 teaspoon

split chick peas / chana dal- 1 tablespoon


curry leaves- 3-4 leaves


1. Heat oil in a non stick pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add chana dal . when it turns light brown add curry leaves and then add grated cabbage and turmeric and salt . saute well

2. Coarsely grind coconut, green chillies and onions add this to the half cooked cabbage. Mix well. Cook for -2 minutes.

Recipe for Kalan


Yam – 1/2 cup (cut in to small cubes)

Raw bananas- 1/2 cup ( cut into small pieces)

pepper powder- 1 teaspoon

Turmeric powder(optional)- 1/2 teaspoon


2 coconut grated –  1 and 1/2 cups

green chillies –  4-5

3 sour yogurt –  1 cup

4 mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon

fenugreek seeds- 1/2 teaspoon

dried red chilly- 2

curry leaves


1. Cook the vegetables in water with salt, pepper and turmeric powder items together with little water. Evaporate excess water by heating.

2.Beat the yogurt and add to the cooked veggies. Boil and stir continuously so that it won’t curdle.

3. grind grated coconut and green chillies and keep aside.

4. When the gravy gets reduced add the ground coconut – green chilly mixture to it. When it starts boiling, remove from heat.

5. Heat oil or ghee in a pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add fenugreek seeds,red chillies and curry leaves. Pour the tempering on top of kalan prepared and mix well.

Recipe for Paal Payasam ( Rice Pudding)


milk- 2 litres

broken raw rice – 1/2 cup ( alternately you can use basmati but run it ever so slightly in the blender to break it)

ghee – 3 teaspoons

sugar….1/2 kg ( to make it less sweet, reduce the sugar)

1 glass of water


1. Take a thick bottomed vessel and add little ghee. To it add milk and one glass of water together to it and boil. stir well.

2. When the water contents gets evaporated add rice and boil. When the rice gets cooked almost three fourth add sugar and stir continuously.

3. Let the rice gets cooked completely and allow the  payasam to reach the desired consistency, Remove from heat. Serve hot or cold.

This is one long recipe post but I am glad that I got it all down. Thanks Amma for all your help.

19 thoughts on “The Onam Sadya Post”

  1. Yum… love the sambhar… will try this recipe next time. Whenever NRIs come home, it is a whole whirlwind… you cannot afford to miss anyone… your parents, friends, relatives… your in-laws, hubby’s friends, relatives… long list.

  2. I am so familiar with vacations turning into crazy un-vacations where you come back home huffing and puffing and dying to just sleep in and not meet another person in the world! Yeh hain India. 😉

    Really bummed out that I missed all the onam special meals this year…no way I could have prepped all this at home, but there were so many places in Dubai with the traditional Onam feast. Maybe next year…

  3. Thats a marathon post…I do the avial and eriseri a little differently..will have to give your recipes a try….this is the best way for recording the traditional recipes for posterity…Great job!!!

  4. Oh I know the feeling of needing a holiday from your last holiday! How wonderful of you to jot down all of these family recipes – I agree that it’s important to document these recipes, not least for family history. Well done!

  5. That’s one scrumptious spread you made Ani, wow! I’m glad I didn’t do any cooking this Onam–we enjoyed a delicious sadhya on board the kettuvellam in Alapuzha. And that too with Karimeen fry and fish curry, plus toddy for those who were interested 🙂

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