Everything you need to know to impress that Malayali friend, (everybody has one) during Onam from history to fun facts, but mostly a sound familiarity with the food.
The harvest festival has different names and is celebrated at different times across the country. In its Kerala-bound iteration, the festival takes on the name Onam and is celebrated with great fervour across the state, and by Malayalis everywhere.
It is believed that the day marks the return of the King Mahabali from the nether-worlds to visit his people to see them flourishing. Legend has it that Mahabali was a champion of the masses, and when someone so well loved is making his rounds, it calls for a smashing celebration.
One of the more easily recognizable happenings during Onam is the mushrooming of ‘Pookalams’ (Pu-Kuh-lum) everywhere; the definition of everywhere in recent times also covers Facebook and Instagram as well. Hold on there… pooka what?
You could say a Pookalam is a flowery version of the ubiquitous Rangoli. Pookalams are made for the occasion and great amounts of effort are contributed to intricacy and colour tones. There are even competitions for the best designed Pookalams that are held all over the state. At Swiggy, we understand just how big a deal Onam is to Malayalis everywhere, including those that aren’t in Kerala. So, to be perfectly nice guys, we’ve poked and prodded several restaurants to get them to let us home deliver these grandiose meals.
What’s in it for me?
For the uninitiated, the Onam Sadya is a grand, all-you can eat lunch that’s served on a banana leaf with several courses. The Sadya at the boat races in Kerala often have sixty or more different dishes on the bill of fare, served relentlessly, making one have to really load up on all that food just to keep up with each serving to get a taste of every little item.
At the bare minimum, committing to an Onam Sadya means having to sit through 10 glorious vegetarian dishes, each prepared fresh and with feverish devotion, thanks to the magnitude of the occasion.
With the most basic Sadya, you get:
- Puffy, semi polished rice (in infinitesimal quantities); the staple across Kerala.
- Parippu – The equivalent of Dal that makes fast friends with rice.
- Rasam – Used to drown most of your rice during the last rounds of serving.
- Avial – The famous mixed vegetable curry that gives one a mixture of fresh flavours.
- Puliyinchi – A direct translation yields ‘sour ginger’. This dish is the halfway mark between pickles and curries and is mixed into each handful of rice in small quantities.
- Thoran – Usually made out of one or more kinds of stir fried vegetables.
- Pachadi – Usually ash gourd or one of its cousins cooked in a curd-based broth.
- Achaar – Pickle to go with your rice, of course.
- Pappadam – A mandatory presence that completes a rice meal.
- Payasam – One or more kinds of payasam make for dessert at the end of the meal
Listed here are the bare necessities of a Sadya. Cliches aside, the possibilities of what may land on your leaf during a lunch are endless. Some parts of Kerala serve non veg, others use jackfruit chips, even though the prickly fruits aren’t in season. Remember that each item has a specifically designated location on the leaf to make sure refills are clinically precise and on the mark. However, for now, this is what to look forward to for your Onam lunch, grasshopper. Don’t look flustered and poke at each serving. Take it as it comes and make sure you clean out before the next serving lands.
Onam is a celebration that everybody should have a go at. Why? Because the food is fabulous and you can only get it once a year… and now home delivered in Bengaluru. Here’s a little more about the grand festivities.