Onam 2023: 7 Lesser-Known Kerala Dishes For Onasadhya
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One of the major festivals for Kerala, Onam is associated with harvest and holds immense cultural significance for all Malayalis. Traditionally, Onam falls on the 22nd Nakshatra Thiruvonam in the month of Chingam according to the Malayalam calendar, a date which roughly falls in August-September every year. This year, Onam will be celebrated from 20 August 2023 to 31 August 2023. As for why Onam is celebrated with such fervour in Kerala, here is a little story you should know.  

Legend says that Onam is also associated with the story of King Mahabali and Lord Vishnu’s Vamana avatar. For those unaware, King Mahabali promised Vamana three paces of land in alms, and then Lord Vishnu revealed his divine form and covered the entire universe in three steps, pushing the king to the netherworld. However, because King Mahabali was both righteous and generous as a ruler, Lord Vishnu granted him the boon that he would be able to visit his kingdom of Kerala once a year during the 10-day festival of Onam.  

This is precisely the reason why Onam is not just a harvest festival but also a celebration of a virtuous king returning home. Naturally, the festivities around Onam reflect that joy and feeling of abundance. From the beautiful flower arrangements called pookkalam and onathappan to boat races or vallam kali and tiger dance or pilikali, Onam is a time when every household in Kerala comes out with immense festive spirit.  

The Onam Sadhya, also called the Onasadhya, is a grand feast served on banana leaves, is at the very centre of this festive season in Kerala. Usually loaded with vegetarian delicacies that represent the six rasas or tastes, an Onasadhya is a resplendent meal celebrating the best the harvest in Kerala has to offer. And yet, for most people beyond Kerala, the Onam Sadhya stays limited to a few dishes—unless prepared and served by Malayali chefs of course. The variety of each dish, whether it’s a snack, a curry or a sweet dish, remains unexplored.  

This Onam, let’s change all that with a closer look at some of the lesser-known dishes that are included in the Onasadhya. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Sharmis Passion

Inji Thayir  

An Onam Sadhya is never complete without beverages that are not only refreshing but also aid digestion, and Inji Thayir is one such drink you must have. Inji Thayis is basically a yoghurt-based drink flavoured with ginger, green chillies, curry leaves and salt. Not only does this drink have medicinal benefits but also helps wash down the grand meal that an Onasadhya is.  

Sakkaravalli Kizhangu Poli 

Quite similar to the Maharashtrian Puran Poli made with chana dal and jaggery stuffing, Sakkaravalli Kizhangu Poli is made with a refined flour dough stuffed with a sweet potato stuffing. Paler than the traditional Puran Poli thanks to the refined flour dough, the sweet potato stuffing for the Malayali counterpart is made with a blend of the starchy vegetable, jaggery, cardamom and a bit of coconut. 


A crunchy exterior and a fluffy soft centre is what makes this traditional snack from Kerala a special feature of the Onasadhya feast. Rice flour forms the basis of the Orappam batter, to which coconut milk, jaggery, nutmeg, cardamom and cashews are added. The batter is then baked to perfection and served after completely cooling down. 

Sarkara Varatti 

Everybody knows Kerala is famous for bananas and savoury banana chips, but you won’t get a true flavour of these bananas until you have tasted Sarkara Varatti. Thinly sliced ripe bananas are fried and tossed with caramelized jaggery and ghee to create a sweet snack with slightly bitter or smokey notes. Usually prepared by experienced grandmothers, mothers and professional chefs, this one is a rare Malayali treat that not everybody can nail. 

Uppumanga Chaaru 

A raw mango curry might not surprise you, but the fact that Uppumanga refers to salted raw mangoes which are then used to make a Chaaru or gravy for Sadhya may just surprise you. Uppumanga is basically raw mango cuts preserved in a salted brine, and Uppumanga Chaaru is a coconut-based gravy made with this ingredients to create a salty and slightly spicy dish to be savoured with rice. 

Unnithandu Upperi 

Not just in Kerala but across coastal India, no part of the banana ever goes to waste—even the stem is used to make dishes. In Kerala, Unnithandu Upperi or Thoran is one such dish that utilizes the banana stem perfectly. The banana stem is cleaned, chopped and cooked with very few spices to create a dry sort of dish that can be enjoyed with rice. 

Vazhakoombu Payasam 

You might be familiar with Payasam as a sweet treat which resembles Kheer and is made with coconut milk, jaggery and rice, but the uniqueness of Vazhakoombu Payasam will take your breath away. Vazhakoombu refers to banana blossoms, so this dessert is actually made with chopped banana blossoms cooked in a mix of coconut milk, jaggery and some aromatic spices.