Kerala may be known for its temples and stunning landscapes, but if you haven’t had Kerala’s most famous meal, “Sadhya”, you have not fully explored Kerala! Sadhya is not just a meal, it is an experience in itself, especially for those trying it for the first time. It is essentially a traditional vegetarian meal with an assortment of at least 24 to 28 different dishes, served on a banana leaf on the occasions of Onam and Vishu. If you are heading to Kerala during either of these festivals or if you would like to have an authentic Sadhya in your own city, here are some of the key dishes you can expect to taste, without which a Sadhya is incomplete.
- Rice – This is no ordinary rice, mind you! The rice served as part of the Sadhya is a unique parboiled red rice that sets it apart from other regular meals.
- Upperi – Banana chips are an integral part of food in Kerala, so obviously, they also make an appearance in the Sadhya.
- Parippu – A simple curry/gravy made from grams or lentils in coconut oil or ghee
- Sambar – The widely popular sambar is a delicious concoction of lentils cooked in tamarind, tomatoes, spices and lots of seasonal vegetables
- Rasam – Tangy, spicy and hot, rasam is almost like a soup and works as a great accompaniment to wash all the other food down.
- Avial – A famous dish from Kerala, this is a dry vegetable dish made with grated coconut.
- Pachadi – A curry made out of lots of yogurt, coconut and bitter gourd or even pineapple.
- Thoran – This dry vegetable dish is almost a staple in Kerala. It is typically made out of sauteed cabbage, carrots or beans with coconut.
- Pickles – A traditional Sadhya is unimaginable without pickles, at least of 2 varieties – one made out of raw mango and another from sour lemons. Perfect to fire up your taste buds.
- Payasam – A Sadhya is incomplete without a few varieties of payasam, Kerala’s version of milk and rice pudding. A traditional Sadhya will always end on a sweet note with a delicious payasam.
These are just some of the key dishes you should be looking out for, but there will be so many more, it is is easier to just go with the flow! The whole point of serving so many varieties of dishes during special festivals is that there should be something to cater to everyone’s taste.
The concept of Sadhya also has spiritual significance and hence served on Vishu, which is the start of a new year for Hindus in Kerala. A mix of flavours in a Sadhya is meant to remind us that the new year is going to be filled with a variety of situations, some good, some bad, and some bitter. But that’s the essence of life, and what better way to convey such an important message than through food! And Keralites sure do a tremendous job of it!