Pachadi: A Soul Food Beyond The Side Dish

You must be missing the Sadya meal now that Onam has passed. Pachadi is something that many people adore and remember about sadya, the lovely Kerala feast, in addition to sambar, rasam, appalam, and payasam. Any seasoned cook would talk excitedly about the zest and beauty that the simple pachadi adds if you ask them. Interestingly, the pachadi is also not a static element; it adjusts to a variety of foods and seasons. For instance, some claim that it is not only memorable but that everyone eventually develops their own happy version of it, such as the pineapple pachadi, the vibrant beetroot pachadi, or the traditional Inji Pachadi made with ginger or the curiously interesting Kumbalanga Pachadi that is a fantastic introduction to the local white pumpkin. 

Pachadi is frequently contrasted with the northern foods raita and chutney. The three clearly differ from one another; in the pachadi, there is a subtle interplay of sour-sweet and acidic flavours with a whiff of umami. This gives the meal a flavour combination that distinguishes it from Kerala's other varieties of pickles and makes it a need during the summer or other changing seasons of the year. The delicacy known as pachadi falls within the same category as chutney, pickle, and raita. Any pachadi can be prepared using the same methods used to make chutney or raita, which involve pairing regional ingredients to provide an enticing palate play. The treatment is what sets pachadi apart from its competitors. The main vegetable or fruit in pachadi undergoes some level of minor cooking before other ingredients are added and subsequently tempered, in contrast to chutney and raita, which primarily employ raw ingredients and the tempering or tadka offers the finishing flavour. 

In fact, there is typically only one star component in pachadi, as opposed to chutney, where the majority of the ingredients are used. The other ingredients serve as a supporting cast and are included to improve the flavour and nutritional value. Based on the single hero ingredient, this method of producing pachadi yields a number of variations. In general terms, there are two main varieties that can be used to classify the entire range of pachadi. The first is a spicy, tangy pachadi that includes all of its fresh fruit and vegetable variations, including those made with Malabar cucumber or pineapple and known for its sweet-sour, acidic, and spicy flavours. The alternative, known as Kichadi, is a gentler variation of the bold pachadi and is distinguished by the use of curd. The veggies in this dish often flavourless and cooked until they are tender before curd and other seasonings are added and tempered. 


It's fascinating to note that these two variations developed under the reigns of the great emperor Raja Raja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola, who are both known to have supported art, culture, and gastronomy. This prompted a comparison with raita and then with chutney. Pachadi quickly spread throughout the world because of how well it enhanced the flavour and taste of a meal. In actuality, Pachadi may be found in its traditional form not just in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but also in Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. Odisha also has kachadi in various varieties, yet there are a few minor details that have changed. In Andhra and Telengana, the vegetable is ground with chillies, fenugreek, and mustard seeds — with greens (herbs) added to it to give it that distinctive taste. In Kerala, pachadi can take both a chutney-like form as well as that of a vegetable curry and compare to the Odia Ou Khatta or Bengali Tomato Khejur Chatni in texture and appearance. 

There are countless tales regarding kachadi and pachadi that can be told. According to legend, when the Marathas took control of these regions in the Middle Ages, they were surprised to find similar produce in the hills and the shore. As a result, they opted to adopt cuisines that worked for both palates and ingredients. That is how koshimbir, originally produced from local vegetables, came to be and spread across the country. The Southekai Pachadi from Mangalore and the Nadia Pachadi from Odisha, both made with yoghurt, coconut, and fruits including apple, pears, and pomegranate, are some of Kachadi's other inspirations.  

Curiously, pachadi also made its way from the lush inland regions to other areas, possibly as a result of its position in the sadya, which by the time of Krishnadev Raya of Vijayanagram had established itself as a symbol of successful food trade, work, and diplomacy. The beauty about pachadi is that it's light, but pickle or chutney aren't. Because of this characteristic, it pairs well with any food in any season.