Saturday, April 12, 2008

SADYA VIBHAVANGAL – Learn to make the traditional Kerala Feast- An Artist’s Edible Palette !

When someone asks me what I want to be, if there is a re-birth, for me the response comes quite spontaneously…….I don’t have to think twice to say that I should be able to sing, I should be able to paint beautifully and I should be able to write beautiful poems, capturing the serenity of nature, the beauty of chirping of birds, the sound of flowing water on river rocks…….and now I wish I could also write a poem about the traditional Kerala feast, Sadya! Isn't there something poetic , romantic and pleasant about those flavours and colours on that organic plate?

Almost one and half months back when I published this post, I wrote, “Sadya, in its pure visual sense, is an artists palette and as I had written in some of my previous posts, is a traditional vegetarian feast of Keralites and is very close to each and every Malayalee’s heart ……….. a nostalgia for some like us , who left home and homeland, soon after marriage because of one’s job demands, making it almost impossible to travel back miles together to attend a close-one’s marriage or cousin’s house-warming function or your sibling’s kid’s naming ceremony or first birthday ….we miss such homely get-togethers, followed by this grand feast, served on a banana leaf with rice and a myriad of vegetable side dishes cooked in ground coconut mixture, both fresh and roasted, and some cooked in buttermilk and curd, in various flavours, mildly spiced up curries, banana chips, spicy pickles, Payasam & Pradhaman and a fresh banana and Pappadam (Indian wafers)”.

From the responses I received for that post, I realized that there are many sailing in the same boat with me…..many who miss such huge feasts and family get-togethers. And the more and more I looked at the picture of the Sadya I prepared last year , I felt it’s not just an artist's palette, it’s an artist’s edible palette, perfectly balanced with flavors and colors at the same time…perfectly appealing to all the senses!

Those who have been following this blog probably would have got an idea about how much I love Sadya from my previous posts, especially when I wrote, “ I am embarrassed to write it down here, that there was an incident where everyone left the huge dining hall, next to the marriage–reception one, and the only two people left behind were yours truly and her friend and finally we were forced to stop feasting ourselves as we were asked to speed up because they had to set the table for the next batch of invitees!!!”. There is something captivating about that subtle smell coming off when the warm dishes touch the banana leaf....

Preparing the traditional feast and writing about it has always been an exhilarating experience for me. However, the only challenge was remembering all the right combinations and cooking methods and every time I had to call up my mother when the festive season approached. So recently I thought of compiling all my mother’s traditional recipes in one place and blogging about it was the ideal solution. Also I have been receiving key word searches like, “Onasadya”, “Vishu Sadya”, “Sadya special items”, "Onam Sadhya", "sadya-vattangal", "Kerala Sadhya recipes", “Sadya recipes” etc….perhaps a new bride out there was trying to whip up this huge spread….I don’t know……

Before I proceed, let me make it crystal clear that these recipes are our family recipes and though traditional Kerala dishes, there can be lots of variations in the ingredient list as well as the cooking method, due to the regional differences. Me being the princess daughter of Queen of Arabian Sea is only aware of the delicacies served in and around that place and not familiar with Sadya served in the southern or northern part of Kerala. Hence, please do not consider this post as an encyclopedia of all your Sadya needs and information related to the same. This post is purely based on my personal experience and I am not trying to make any generalization here. I wish I could talk to a Dhehannakkaaran/Sadya Chef, of the older generation, to collect more info on the real authenticity of Sadya but that does not look like even a probability for me, atleast in the near future!

If anyone is still wondering what this Sadya is all about, please have a look at the mini version I prepared last year:

This traditional vegetarian feast is served on a banana leaf, the organic plate as many would call it, and if it is a “thooshan ela”, narrow curved part of the banana leaf, it has to be placed before a person, so the narrow part of the leaf is on the left side. Check out the picture of “thooshan ela” below:

It is on the extreme left of the banana leaf that they start serving the crispy treats like Pappadam ,Pazham and upperis. Then it is the turn of pickles like manga achar, naranga achar and various “thodu-curry”, like puli inji, manga curry, pachadi and kichadi. After that ,biggies like Madhura curry, koottu curry, thoran, avial, olan, kaalan, erisseri, Mambazha Pulissery etc makes a grand entry. Infact, there is an order in which all these dishes are to be served which I am not very sure of. Once the side dishes are served, rice is served on the bottom half of the leaf with dishes like Parippu/lentil with a drop of ghee and Sambar, rasam etc. Depending on the weight of one’s wallet, there can be two to four types of Payasam/Pradhaman which constitute the dessert section and finally Kerala’s classic thirst quencher, Sambaram is served to settle down the expected heaviness after such a huge meal. In some of the other regions of Kerala, a sweet dessert called ‘Boli’ is also served as part of Sadya. In some places, along with the banana chips, some more crispy and fried items are served like, chena varuthathu/fried yam chips, chakka varuthathu/jackfruit chips, parippu vada, unniyappam etc.

I have read somewhere that decades back, at royal palaces and big Namboodiri Illams , 64 items were served at Sadya! Wonder how one could enjoy all the 64 dishes in one sitting!!! Wouldn’t they forget the taste of the first one by the time they reach the 64th one??? Anyway, these days the number of dishes is somewhere between 14 and 24 I guess……not sure though!

The ones listed below are some of the dishes my family prepares when we make the traditional spread. You can go to each of these dishes and recipes by clicking on the picture where I have explained the dishes and recipes in detail. Some of the pictures do not justify the real taste of the dishes; I will try to update the pictures later. For the time being, here‘s my mini Sadya for you :)

Idichakka Thoran Aval Payasam

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