The Banana Leaf Feast of Kerala

Onam may have come and gone but the wait for the next Sadya has already started. Here is what goes into making this sumptuous meal so unforgettable

Published: 19th September 2015 05:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2015 05:15 AM   |  A+A-


If you have travelled to God’s Own Country, Kerala, you will know why the traditional occasions are more like Feast-ivals here. Sadya is the feast which is specially prepared for occasions like Onam, weddings etc in Kerala. Sadya refers to banquet in Malayalam. With a minimum of 24 vegetarian mouth watering dishes, it looks sumptuous when served on the humble banana leaf and is consumed without any cutlery by folks sitting cross-legged on the floor. The mainstay of this simple abundance is rice, the staple food of Kerala and it is served along with other dishes, collectively known as kootan. The feast includes parippu, avial, sambar, rasam, pulisseri, kaalan, mango  pickle, banana, papadum, plantain chips etc. This memorable feast ends with payasam which is  also traditionally served on banana leaf and is of different varieties. The kootan is made of  different vegetables and thus has multiple flavours. It is interesting that the dishes are  served in particular spots on the banana leaf and this makes it easy for the waiter to identify which dish has to be served again. For example, the banana is served on the bottom left corner  of the leaf and the pickles are served on the top left corner.   

It is rightly said that ‘there is a reason for everything’ be it in life or while eating Sadya. So after the meal is finished, the banana leaf  is folded in a particular pattern which gives an idea about the satisfaction of the diner. It is a way  through which they convey their feedback about the meal. If the leaf is folded away from  oneself, it means that the food needs improvement and if one folds it towards oneself, it means  he is satisfied with the food.

All the dishes are cooked with coconut oil. The mixture of vegetables and coconut in the becalming avial, the dark thick sambar, the spicy rasam, the crispy pappadum, the sweet and sour puliyinchi will start a party of flavours in your mouth. There is also spicy buttermilk which is served straight  from a matka.

The feast does not end here. The prathaman is still left to be served. It is a sweet dish, similar to  payasam but is more leisurely and elaborately made with jaggery and coconut milk.

There are different types of prathaman like palada prathaman, chakka prathaman, paripu  prathaman etc and atleast two of them are served for each feast. You will also notice different  food items served on your banana leaf as you move to other parts of Kerala. Fresh produce and vegetables with uncompromising taste and flavour make this feast rich and exquisite. Onam may have come and gone but the wait for the next Sadya has already started. 

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