7 Alternative Dishes You Can Put in Your Sadhya Platter
Image Credit: Sadhya | Image Credit: Instagram

Onam is an auspicious festival that holds immense significance in Kerala, as it marks the return of the legendary King Mahabali. The festival extends over a period of 10 days, and this year it began on August 20 and will conclude on August 31. The festival is associated with the harvest season of standing crops.    

The 10-day-long festival is celebrated with great pomp and fervour by the people of Kerala. People pay homage to the legendary King Mahabali’s homecoming, entwined with several stories and myths. The 10-day sequence begins with Atham, followed by Chodhi, Vishakam, Anizham, Thriketa, Moolam, Pooradam, and Uthradam, culminating on the 10th day, known as Thiruvonam, which holds much significance. Thiruvonam, the last day of Onam celebrations, is the most auspicious day. On this day, families prepare Onam Sadhya, the opulent Onam feast.    

The term sadhya in Malayalam literally translates to grand banquet. This culinary spread encompasses 26 items of curries, fried vegetables, desserts, and many more. The basic dishes include Kaaya varuthatha (banana chips), chena varuthatha (yam chips), sharkara upperi (jaggery coated banana chips), mango pickle, lime pickle, puli inji (tamarind and ginger chutney), kichadi (gourd in mildly spiced yoghurt), pachadi (pineapple in yoghurt), olan (ash gourd with black beans in a coconut milk gravy), theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy), erissery (mashed beans and pumpkin with coconut gravy), avial, puliserry (yoghurt-based curry), kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), sambar, rasam, spicy buttermilk, bananas, papad and of course boiled rice.  

Sadhya is enjoyed without any cutlery and is usually eaten while sitting on the floor. These 26 items are served on banana leaves. However, there’s always scope for a Sadhya makeover. You can add your dishes and customise Sadhya according to your choice. We have made a list of some dishes that you can include on the platter. Take a look:    

  • Varuthu Aracha Sambar  

If you’re bored with the regular sambar, you can try this varuthu aracha sambar. This sambar is also known as ‘Nadaan Sambhar.’ This Malabar-style sambar is different from the regular one in that it is made with dried and ground coconut and spices. To make this sambar, a medley of vegetables, lentils, and tamarind is cooked together and then flavoured with a special masala mixture composed of roasted coconut, coriander seeds, red chilies, and other spices. The resulting dish boasts a harmonious blend of tanginess, spiciness, and depth.  

  • Capsicum Thoran  

Thoran refers to a traditional South Indian stir-fry dish that combines finely chopped vegetables with a mixture of grated coconut and aromatic spices. In the case of capsicum thoran, colourful bell peppers are thinly sliced and sautéed with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, and shallots in coconut oil. The addition of grated coconut, turmeric, and chilli powder enhances the dish with a rich and mildly spiced flavor profile. This dish not only highlights the natural sweetness and crunch of the bell peppers but also presents a harmonious blend of earthy coconut and warm spices.   

  • Cheera Avial    

For this dish, opt for spinach, which is not only nutritious but also healthy. Chop the spinach and cook it in water with turmeric powder, chilli powder, and salt. Grind coconut and shallots to a coarse paste. When spinach is well cooked, add raw mango slices and cook for a few minutes. Add coconut paste to it and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the flame off, add coconut oil, and mix well.  

  • Ash Gourd Pulissery 

This traditional dish embodies the delicate balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. This dish features tender pieces of ash gourd, also known as winter melon, cooked in a creamy coconut and yoghurt-based gravy. The ash gourd's mild and slightly sweet taste complements the tanginess of yoghurt and the subtle heat from green chilies. A tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, and dried red chilies in coconut oil adds depth and fragrance to the dish. It is often enjoyed with steamed rice.  

  • Mushroom Theeyal    

This dish showcases the earthy richness of mushrooms combined with the distinctive flavours of roasted coconut and spice-based gravy. The term "theeyal" refers to the process of slow-roasting ingredients like coconut, red chilies, coriander seeds, and fenugreek to create a deeply aromatic masala paste. The mushrooms are then simmered in this luscious mixture, absorbing the complex flavours and textures. The result is a symphony of tastes that dance between the umami of mushrooms and the warmth of spices, while the coconut imparts a creamy backdrop.    

  • Carrot Payasam    

This dessert holds a special place in the hearts of those with a sweet tooth, as it combines the wholesome goodness of carrots with the luxuriousness of milk, ghee, and aromatic spices. Grated carrots are lovingly simmered in milk until they soften and release their flavours, creating a base that's rich and comforting. The addition of ghee-roasted nuts like cashews and raisins provides a delightful crunch and contrast to the silky texture. Infused with cardamom and sometimes saffron, carrot payasam emanates a warm and fragrant aroma that tantalises the senses.    

  • Cucumber Pachadi  

Made primarily from finely chopped cucumbers, coconut, yoghurt, and a medley of spices, this dish offers a refreshing and cooling contrast to spicy main courses. The cucumbers provide a crisp and hydrating base, while the yoghurt lends a creamy tanginess. A blend of mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chillies is often tempered in oil and added to the mixture, infusing it with a delightful aromatic complexity.