Kerala House in New Delhi hosts an Onam Sadhya for three days every year, celebrating the festival. During this time, anyone can have a taste of the food that is unique to the region.
A little research online and Sadhya (meaning Banquet in Malayalam) is pure vegetarian food. It is served during festivals and marriages to large groups and is prepared mostly by men.
Their specialty is that the food is served on big banana leaves and can consist of 12 to even 64 different items. Onam Sadhya at Kerala House costs Rs. 200,- and is operated very smoothly considering they feed close to 150+ people in one go. Rotation of people happens about every 20 odd minutes.
I do wish they had some information for “tourists” like me informing us of all the food that we were about to pounce upon. A couple of my friends, later on, did explain some of the ingredients and preparations that I had enjoyed during the Sadhya. Back to the feast, and finally making it to the table took some doing.
While the authentic way to sit for Onam Sadhya is on the ground, in this case, there was tables and chairs laid out for everyone.
I sure am glad about it, because to reach Kerala House, we had to first take an hour-long metro ride. Then, a semi-short walk in the blistering sun, followed by a wait in the line for half an hour.
You can imagine that when the food finally arrived, it was quite the sight for these bespectacled sore eyes.
As for the food, the Kerala Red Rice, which I’m told isn’t polished all the way through, had a lovely little puffy texture to it that I enjoyed. Sambhar, which I suspected would be super spicy, turned out to be just perfect.
Eating like a local, using only my hands (some folks came prepared to cheat with plastic spoons) I dug into the Olan – Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), pumpkin and coconut milk – which turned out to be a favourite. The same was the case with Inji Puli – Tamarind and Ginger – and Beans Thoran – a dry vegetable dish made with yard-long beans.
There were the Sadhya essentials such as Aviyal (Mixed Vegetables), Papad, Beetroot Pachadi which stood out because of its bright pinkish colour.
Banana chips, Bananas, a yellow curry served over the rice, which I believe was Parippu Curry, and a few other chutneys and pickles completed the mains.
To end the meal, there were the obligatory sweet dishes in the form of Payasam and Pradhaman.
However, it is authentic regional food that may take some getting used to, especially for people like me who have grown up eating South Indian Platters with Idli and Vada from the likes of Halidram’s and Sagar Ratna.
What I cherish the most about my visit to Kerala House for Onam Sadhya is the entire experience. From being able to spend the day with my daughter, and the excitement of eating with just my hands, to enjoying the different flavours and then researching about it after coming home.
In terms of foodie adventures, it remains one of the most fascinating meals I have ever had.