Reporter & Cameraperson: Smitha TK
Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
(This article was originally published on 20 August 2022 and has been reposted from The Quint's archives on the occasion of Onam. )
Onam, the harvest festival in Kerala celebrates the homecoming of the legendary mythical King Mahabali. The 10-day-long Onam festivities in Kerala concludes with Thiruvonam on 21 August. It is the biggest festival in the state that spans religious boundaries and during the festival, every Malayali dresses in their best, makes a pookalam (floral rangoli) in front of their homes and prepares a grand Onam feast.
The Quint caught up with Chef Regi Mathew, one of the founders and Culinary Director of Kappa Chakka Kandhari in Chennai, to cook 'aviyal' and 'payaru payasam', that are favourites in a sadhya.
The Grand Kerala Feast
Onam sadhya is the traditional multi-course vegetarian meal served on the festive occasion, on a banana leaf featuring over 25 dishes. The elaborate meal calls for a community to come together in forging a memorable experience. The meal consists of traditional dishes from across the state, including fried snacks, variety of curries, pickles and sweets served with red rice.
Typically, an Onam sadhya includes pappadam, upperi, sharkara varatti, inji pickle, mango pickle, naranga pickle, pachadi, olan, elliseri, thoran, red rice, parripu with ghee, chenna mezhkkupuratti, olan, sambhar, pulissery, kaalan, morru kachiyatha, kichadi, rasam, kootu, inji thayir, poovan pazham, palada pradhaman and pazham pradhaman.
Kappa Chakka Kandhari, named for three ingredients unique to Kerala -- tapioca, jackfruit and bird’s eye chilli, is built on the vision of reclaiming traditional Kerala food for a new generation, bringing the state’s hidden culinary gems to light. "This is a tribute to my Amma and all the Ammas who painstakingly cook for us everyday. The Onam sadhya is very nutritious and has a little bit of Amma' love in every dish," said Chef Regi.
Chef Regi spent three years traveling across the state, researching and working with over 265 housewives and 70 toddy shops across Kerala, some of who are now part of the kitchen team at the restaurant.
Here are the recipes to the two traditional items that Chef Regi cooked:
Aviyal is a melange of garden-fresh vegetables cooked with coconut paste and yoghurt or a sour fruit (raw mango, raw tomato, bimbli).
Prep Time: ½ hour
Cooking time: 1 hour
1 Cup grated coconut
Turmeric powder (divided usage)
3 Green chillies
1 Cup yam (strips)
½ Cup snake gourd (strips)
¾ Cup Malabar cucumber (strips)
¼ Cup carrot (strips)
¼ Cup long beans (cut into short lengths)
1 Drumstick (Cut into 2-inch lengths)
1 Raw Nendran banana (long strips)
¼ Cup raw mango (long strips)
3 Tbsp coconut oil (divided usage)
Banana leaf (to cover)
Coarsely grind the coconut, jeera, turmeric powder and green chillies without water in a mixie.
Heat one cup of water with a pinch of turmeric in a large pan. Add the vegetables, bring to a boil, and cook until the water evaporates.
Add the grated coconut masala, curry leaves, salt, and two tablespoons of the coconut oil, and mix. Place the pan on a low flame, cover with a banana leaf, and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the banana leaf, add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to the Aviyal, and remove from the flame.
Serve hot with Matta red rice.
Note: If raw mango is not available, add two to three tablespoons of yoghurt.
Payaru payasam is a rich creamy dessert made with whole moong dal and jaggery, cooked in coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom and topped with coconut bits. It makes for a truly fitting finale to your festive meal at home and the ingredients in the dish are available anywhere in the country.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45 mins
1 Cup jaggery
½ Cup skinless moong dal
1 Cup coconut milk
2 Cardamoms (crushed)
¼ Tsp jeera powder
¼ Tsp ginger powder
2 Tbsp ghee
Dried coconut chips
Make a syrup by boiling the jaggery with one cup of water. Strain, and set aside.
Roast the moong dal in a dry pan over a low flame for five to six minutes. Remove from the flame, and set aside to cool down completely.
Cook the moong dal with 1 ½ cup water in a heavy bottomed pan for 30 minutes and add jaggery syrup , cook for 15 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes.
Add the crushed cardamom, and the jeera and ginger powders. Take off the flame. Set aside.
Heat the ghee in a small pan, and lightly fry the coconut.
Add the fried chips to the payasam, and serve hot or cold