Food is an integral part of a land’s culture and tradition. You can literally get a taste of the land by eating the authentic food it offers. So you cannot get a complete experience of your holiday unless you eat the local food of the destination you’re visiting. As you can probably guess, the tropical land of Kerala is known for its colourful culture. It is no wonder then, that the local food of Kerala is just as colourful. Not just colourful, but rich in flavours. And when all these flavours burst in your mouth, you begin to taste Kerala. The experience is delightful. One of the most popular delicacies in Kerala cuisine is “Sadhya”.
Sadhya – What is it?
The word “Sadhya” means “Banquet” in Malayalam. As you read this blog further, you will realise why that is a perfect name for this delicacy. The Kerala Sadhya is a feast of Hindu origin. It consists of a variety of vegetarian dishes. They are served on a banana leaf. If you don’t get it on a banana leaf, then it is not Sadhya.
Sadhya is usually prepared for weddings and other events which require food to be served in large quantities. The traditional festival of Kerala – Onam has Sadhya as its speciality.
Typically, Sadhya comprises of 24-28 dishes served in a single course. During some rituals such as Valla Sadhya, the meal may have 64 or more items. They are eaten with ceremonial rituals and succeeded by traditional boat race songs. Only approved chefs prepare this special type of Sadhya. This is because they have to consider physical as well as spiritual purity. When a conventional Sadhya celebration takes place, people sit on mats in a cross-legged position and eat with their right hand without using any cutlery.
Dishes included in Kerala Sadhya
Sadhya is basically white rice with a number of dishes surrounding it. The main curries are Parippu, Sambar, Rasam and Pulisseri. Other items are Kaalan, Avail, Thoran, Olan, Pachadi, Kichadi, Koottukari, Erissery, Mango and Lemon pickles, Papadam, Plantain Chips, Sharkara Upperi, Poovan Pazham. It also has plain curd and buttermilk. All these dishes are collectively known as “Kootan”. To prepare Kootan, you need an almost countless number of ingredients. So you can imagine the flavours you will taste on a single serving of Sadhya. A banquet indeed! But wait, it doesn’t end here.
Apart from these varieties of dishes, you also get traditional Kerala desserts at the end. The desserts will definitely include Payasam. Then there are three or more other sweet items as well. Since everyone has a different taste when it comes to food, you may like some items more than the others. But because there are so many items, and since all of them have a different taste, you will like at least some of the dishes. In fact, that is the very concept of Sadhya.
All the dishes in Sadhya have a specific place on the banana leaf. For example, they will always put pickles on the left top corner of the leaf. Because of this arrangement, the waiters can get to know what is missing on your leaf so that they can make additional servings.
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Kerala Sadhya Preparation
Sadhya is usually a lunchtime delicacy. The preparation begins the previous night. Coconut oil is a primary ingredient in the preparation. All the dishes are ready for serving by 10 AM on the day of the celebration. As we said earlier, they serve the meal on a banana leaf. After finishing the meal, guests will fold and close the leaf. They say that if you close the leaf, you’re conveying the message that the meal was satisfying. Traditions everywhere!
Why you should not miss Sadhya during your Kerala trip
Did you know that South Indian cuisine is the healthiest cuisine in the world? That’s what many people say. But what many people don’t know is that Sadhya is the healthiest delicacy in the South Indian cuisine. So apart from giving you a delightful burst of flavours and the rich taste, the meal is also doing a whole lot of good for your body.
But the most important reason why Sadhya is a must-have delicacy is this: Sadhya, with its colours and flavours, is a perfect expression of Kerala’s culture and tradition. So when you sit for a Sadhya meal, you not only enjoy a tasty meal but you also become part of Kerala tradition. It’s an opportunity which no passionate traveler would want to miss!
Are you a foodie? Then don’t miss out on reading a special blog I’ve written exclusively for foodies visiting Kerala.