It is no surprise that am a foodie and no surprise that I have a sweet tooth and here is another no surprise, that I love Onam Sadya aka the Kerala Meals aka the Ella Sadya. Mostly just because there are plenty of items on the plate to eat, sorry correction, plenty of items on the leaf to eat. A leaf full of food is pure love isn’t it. The excitement to see the men in mundu lined up with vessels of food, serving one after another item in swift speed on your leaf, sometimes just a spoon of it and you wonder why the kanjoosi and then you dip your finger into each item, take a lick to see which is the best. Ask for more servings yet ensure you have enough space in the food pipe (stomach is already full) for the ada pradaman and parippu payasam. Ah bliss! Sit and relax for five minutes before you close the leaf and wash your hands. Such is the love for Onam Sadya.
I once went to a wedding in Alleppey just to have the Sadya. One for the sadya, two for Allepey, and three for the Ambalapuzha pal payasam. It was a friend’s friend wedding, so I don’t even know who it is but I went. It was an event in itself to brave the malayalees in a wedding hall to have the sadya. It you know Tamil, I have written a blog on this adventure here. I have been planning to visit and have Aranmula Valla Sadya almost every year and have never successfully done it. It happens during the boat race time and they serve around 50 dishes in the temple, but you need to book a slot and be lucky to get a token. A normal sadya itself they serve close to 20 dishes! Erissery, pulissery, olan, thoran, pachadi, avial, kalan, mezhakkuperatti, kootu, so many options! My favourite is inji pulli and madhura curry. Inji pulli as the name says it is a simple combination of ginger, tamarind and jaggery. Madhura curry is omg, you have to have this. You might find it weird if I say it is a dish made of pineapple, banana and grapes but not a fruit salad 😀 It also has coconut and tadka added to it. Once I asked the guy if he could just leave the madhura curry vessel next to me. Between all the spicy and sour flavors this cuts across with a mix of both notes along with sweetness. Well my love for it is obvious. And not to forget, Upperi. Another favourite that I ask my malayalee friends to get it for me fresh from Kerala. Cos I have a sweet tooth, I love this jaggery and slight ginger note coated banana chips over the normal salted one.
My love for Kerala food started from childhood days though, through a simple dish called Sabarimala Aravana Payasa. The kheer made of rice, jaggery and lots of ghee available only as an offering from Sabarimala temple. If Thirupathi is meant for ladoos then Sabarimala is known for its payasam. The taste is unique! The not so cooked rice which still feels like raw rice in thick sticky jaggery and the fragrance of ghee on your fingers after! Ah hhaaa.. More so, you get it only during the Sabarimala season and only if some devotee visits the temple and gets you the prasadam. As a kid I would dutifully drop into houses where Ayyappa pooja happens, this pooja happens just before the devotees leave for the temple. And I would sit through the pooja only to remind the uncle at the end, “Swami yenaku oru dabba” 🙂 The devotees are addressed as God and the prasadam comes in a small tin. It has been ages now since I had that yummy aravana payasam or as I call it the Arisi Nei payasam.
When I grew up all I knew was the Malabar Parotta. Nothing else. That flaky layers, crispy yet soft to dip into kurma and eat was a favourite. Either had it with the chicken kurma that my mom makes or the veg kurma that came along with the parotta. Parotta was tough to make at home, so it was mom’s favourite too every time we went to a restaurant. My experience was marred by Bengaluru, they gave me something called parantha when I innocently ordered parotta and was expecting a parotta.. ughhh.. But if you are from Bangalore and around Marathahalli you cannot miss Maria mess :D.. A friend took me to this mess tucked between the lanes of Marathahalli. Now many Kerala mess have popped around the corners, but Maria mess was special. After a long time I had yummy parotta, egg curry and beef. It was the first time I was introduced to parotta and erachi fry. Honestly you need a gut of steel to grind maida parotta and beef man!
Kerala mess is a life saviour in Bangalore. Be it for me or let’s say other bachelors. It is never a fine dine place that I have seen families occupying it. Either us bachelors or the Malayalees dropping in to get parcel. Anyone who gives me unlimited food is God and so are all these Kerala mess. They keep a bucket of fish curry on the table dude. What more you want? For sometime my routine used to be to stop at one such mess and pick up a killimeen fry or aiyla fry or avoli fry. Kerala kilimeen fry is the delicious fry to have, that is Pink perch fish. If not the kilimeen there is always the avoli aka pomfret. And then off late they also started Pothichoru. What a lovely concept. It is full Kerala meals with beef or omelet or fish fry parcelled all together in a slightly steamed banana leaf. Apparently that’s how they used to pack lunch to work. Such a melange of things when you open the parcel! The latest introduction by Kerala mess is puttu biriyani. What a lovely twist to puttu.
Puttu reminds me of knocking every restaurant’s door in Guruvayur asking for puttu kadala curry. I and my friend set out for breakfast little past the time and all the small outlets had already ran out of puttu but we did not lose hope and knocked every door asking “chetta puttu?” 😛 We had to settle for idly sambar that day. But then my wish was fulfilled at a homestay in Alleppey who made it specially on request. Have you heard of Chiratta puttu? That is the traditional way to make puttu using the coconut shell before the invention of steel puttu cooker. Coconut shell is known as chiratta in Malayalam.
The innocent looking dosa may not be as innocent looking when in Kerala 😉 Called as Kallappam, the dosai batter has an addition of either tender coconut water or toddy. Yes toddy, it gives this mild sweet flavour to the dosa that makes it different. Along with dosa and puttu, one cannot leave out idiyappam or appam with veg stew. At home we always have appam with coconut milk. But Kerala introduced me to having it with veg stew and there is no turning back.
Kappa took me by surprise when I tried. I had so many thoughts, that it is potato, why would you add curry to potato, etc, etc.. Well technically tapioca, I meant that it is potato family. But Kappa and meen curry tasted so good that for the next time I tried Kappa biriyani. Am not a fan of Kerala biriyani, I still call it ghee rice and chicken curry 😀 But Kappa biriyani was different. My vote is still for Kappa Fish curry. They steam it fry it and add tadka or what do they do I honestly don’t know, could be just the taste of tapioca is so good. And mix in thin fish curry into it! Heaven, okay heaven..
After a nap from the meal you have to wake up for Kerala snacks. Pazham pori which is the nenthran pazham bajji is just yumm to have. The nenthran pazham which is a variant of banana is also had as steamed and tossed in ghee. Thalassery is quite a famous restaurant and has a branch close to my home but the famous part of it is the Thalassery cafe that sells amazing snacks and chaaya 😀 Got to call it as chaaya and chaai kadai not as tea. Even if you are not a malayalee if you have lunch or dinner from Kerala mess then have to end it with tea. Why do they have this habit is a mystery to me! Back to Thalassery cafe selling snacks 😀 While I walk from work have to pass through to it and I used to stand in front of the stall wondering what to chose from the options. Between Pazham pori, sugiyan, pathiri, unnakaya, unniappam so many varieties to chose from. And so pick one a day 😉
Have you heard of Karuppu halwa (black halwa) from Kerala? It is unique to Kerala and made from jaggery, coconut milk and rice flour. Mildly sweet.. The problem with mildly sweet being, you cannot stop with one!! And then there is Kozhikodan halwa which is rubbery in texture filled with cashew nuts. The chewy halwa though sticks all around your mouth gives this amazing coconut oil flavour along with ghee melting through you. But the mother of it all is something else. My friend one day introduced me to Chakka Varatti. Oh Myyyy myyyy.. My mouth is watering just thinking of it. It is made of ripe jackfruit, jaggery and ghee. More like a preserve or jam but I eat it like halwa. When I went to her place I shamelessly had multiple cups of it. It is the best thing I have had and not found in shops.
Onam is here and in this covid situation can’t really dine out for Onam Sadya. But if you are reading this and in Kerala, send me Upperi, okay 🙂
Happy Onam, Onam Shubhashayagalu 🙂
If you are wondering where all these pics are from, I had all this during a familiarisation trip to Sterling Wayanad. What an amazing resort and yummy food 🙂