Today was Onam. After we missed our first one as a married couple last year, I was determined to make it a special one for hubby and me this year. So I made it count as the only way i know how to: by cooking something special. This wasn’t too difficult for this festival as it has it has a set menu of some… ummm 11-odd dishes which comprise Onasadya. 🙂 Easy I said?!
Well the beauty of these dishes are that they are easy to prepare (at least the ones I choose to cook!) and take about the usual time you would if you were making the daily fare (I hope I don’t get heckled for this assertion, for in truth it is an elaborate meal but I chose a short cut). While a typical Onamsadya would comprise, pappadum, banana wafers, sarkarapuratti fries, ginger, lime and mango pickles, ‘vellarika’, ‘pavakka’, ‘beetroot’ and ‘ulli kitchadi’. ‘Kitchadi’ made of pineapple and banana splits or of grapes and apple, ‘cabbage thoran’ or thoran made of beans and avial, bread and green peas mix ‘thoran”, kootucurry, ‘parippu curry, ghee, Sambhar, Rasam, butter milk, curd, adaprathaman Payasam, erissery, Kalan or Pulisseri, Olan, Mulakoshyam etc., I could manage only three
These were Samabar, Avial and Mambazha pulisseri, accompanied by pickle and chips (in lieu of banana chips and pappadum). There was to be rasam but time restraints and lack of storage space helped reign my enthusiasm in. And also the fact I don’t know what most of these are. Tut tut! Our UK twist to the Onasadya was also that working day meant we had our lavish meal at night instead of day, as it is traditionally supposed to be. And the uperi (or banana chips) were replaced by potato chips. I could tell you that it was my attempt to integrate cultures but the truth is that these crisps made an appearance on the plate because neither hubby not I could leg it to East Ham (the Indian raw material hub in London) to get some. But that sounds so boring so I will settle for the former excuse instead!
It was a happy meal nonetheless, I assure you. What I loved about today’s fare was that it was a gustatory delight as had it all. The sambar was hot and sour; the puliserri, sweet and tangy, with the right amount of heat; the avial was light and crunchy and oh so coconutty. All these flavours were kept within limits by the all absorbent rice.
Recipe of the day is a sooper easy sambar.
a) Toor/arhar dal: one cup
b) Vegetables (I used potatoes, carrots, brinjal, radish): a cup each
c) onions: one
d) tomato: two medium
e) Okra: 250 gm
f) Tamarind: a small ball (soak it in hot water to extract juice from later)
g) Heeng/asafoetida: a pinch
h) Sambar powder: I put two heaped tbsp for this quantity of sambar
i) Red chilli powder: one tsp
j) Turmeric powder: one tsp
k) Curry leaves: a few
l) Salt: To taste
For the tempering:
b) Mustard seeds
c) Whole dried red chillies
a) Cook the vegetables mentioned in pt b) along with the dal, tomatoes, onions, turmeric, red chilli powder and curry leaves in a pressure cooker.
b) In the meanwhile, fry chopped okra in oil and soak tamarind in hot water. Frying okra ensures you will not get that mucilaginous taste.
c) Once the dal and veggies are done, add sambar powder, asafoetida, fried okra and the tamarind extract. Mix well.
d) Heat oil, splutter mustard seeds, followed by the whole red chillies. Once the chillies start fuming, add the tempering to the sambar.
Oh if you were wondering what was for dessert. Normally it should be payasam, we settled for Muller rice pudding instead!
- It is the biggest festival of Kerela, marking the rice harvest season and the return of King Mahabali. To know more about onam, click here
- It is an all vegetarian fest, and before you carnivores dismiss it, try it at least once. You will be converted (for at least one meal a year), I promise.
- The food has to be served on a banana leaf, laid with the end to the left hand side. The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. A strict order of serving the dishes one after another is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf.