Onam 2023: 8 Delicious Erissery Varieties For Your Sadhya Feast
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The entire state of Kerala and Malayalis living in the state and beyond are now celebrating Onam with aplomb and joy. The 10-day harvest festival of Onam has a huge significance in the culture of Kerala. Legend has it that Onam also marks the return of the mythical King Mahabali to God’s Own Country, and so the celebrations become even more festive and prominent. So, Onam is the time when Malayalis make floral Pookalams, engage in boat races and dances, and of course, eat opulent Sadhya feasts on banana leaves. 

A Sadhya feast usually consists for at least 17-20 dishes, including starters or snacks like Upperi, Banana Chips and Kaliyadakka, beverages like Sambharam, many curries and dry dishes in the main course, and varieties of Payasam and sweets to end the feast. Among the main course dishes, having at least one kind of Erissery in a traditional Onam Sadhya is a must. Here is why. 

For those who don’t know, Erissery is a category of traditional dishes from Kerala cuisine made with a combination of vegetables and lentils. Kerala is a very fertile land known for a wide range of vegetables, quite a lot of which come into season during monsoon, which coincides with Onam celebrations. Since a Sadhya feast for Onam is generally vegetarian, including vegetables in the Sadhya feast to celebrate the new harvest is a must. And Erissery provides the option of combining the flavours of vegetables with another kind of harvest—that of lentils. 

Erissery doesn’t just highlight vegetables and lentils, but also includes coconuts and spices—two more elements that make Kerala cuisine special. However, most people beyond Kerala don’t know that there isn’t one fixed, traditional recipe for Erissery that is homogenously cooked across the state. The recipe for Erissery changes not only according to the vegetables used but also the region it is cooked in—which is why the Erissery cooked in Malabar homes may taste very different from those cooked in Kochi homes. 

Video Credit: YouTube/Jinoos Kitchen

Wondering what are the key types of Erissery that are cooked across Kerala and added often to the Onam Sadhya feast? Here are eight varieties you should know about. 

Mathanga Erissery 

Made with yellow pumpkins and cow peas, Mathanga Erissery is perhaps the most famous Erissery variety known beyond Kerala and is always included in the Onam Sadhya. A paste of coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds is made, then the pumpkin and cow peas are cooked with these and tempered with coconut oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, dry red chillies and more.  

Senai Kizhangu Erissery 

A staple in the Kanyakumari region, Senai Kizhangu Erissery is made with elephant foot yams, which are also known as Chena across Kerala. The spice blend for this Erissery is made with coconut, black pepper and cumin seeds, and urad dal is used in the tempering to make this dish stand out among other Sadhya essentials. 

Nanjil Erissery 

Made usually with raw bananas, this Erissery variety is a staple across the Malabar region of Kerala. The raw or green bananas are chopped up and cooked with spices like turmeric, asafoetida and a blend of coconut and green chillies. The tempering is added at the end and includes curry leaves and grated coconut. 

Chena Kaya Erissery 

Made with Chena or elephant foot yams and Kaya or raw bananas, this Erissery variety stands out for its vegetable-forward approach. The chopped raw bananas and elephant foot yams are cooked in spices and coconut oil, along with a blend of coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds. A tempering of curry leaves is added on top. 

Cherupayar Erissery 

Cherupayar refers to green moong dal, and this Erissery variety is made with this lentil and vegetables like pumpkin are then added. The soaked green moong dal is cooked with the vegetables, a spice blend made with turmeric, coconut, green chillies and cumin, and then tempered with mustard oil and curry leaves. Slightly greenish in colour, this Erissery looks quite unique and outstanding. 

Vanpayar Erissery 

Red cow peas are very popular across Kerala and are used in many dishes, including this Erissery variety. While many Erisseries are made with white cow peas or other lentils, most Malayalis make an Erissery with red cow peas called Vanpayar with Mathanga or pumpkin. The dish is slightly reddish in colour and absolutely delicious. 

Padavalanga Erissery 

Cooked with Padavalanga or snake gourd, this Erissery variety is a summer favourite among Malayalis and occasionally makes its way to the Onam Sadhya too. This watery veggie is usually paired with split moong dal and cooked in a blend of spices like cumin, coconut, green chillies, turmeric and red chillies. A tempering of curry leaves is always added on top. 

Kapalanga Erissery 

Prepared with raw papayas or Kapalanga, this Erissery variety is simply too delicious to not include in a Sadhya feast for Onam. Raw papayas are watery veggies and are usually paired with cow peas or other lentils to make Kapalanga Erissery. Infused with the flavours of coconut, spices, curry leaves and more, this Erissery is anyways a must-have during summer and monsoon months.