Onam is celebrated to welcome the great King Mahabali. During his reign, Kerala reached the zenith of prosperity and wellbeing. That is why King Mahabali wanted to ensure that his people are always well fed and prosperous. So, the Onam Sadya is made very grand.
Traditionally, the Onam feast is served on a banana leaf (which resembles the human tongue). The leaf is divided into various sections to distinguish different flavours like spicy, sweet, bitter, salty, sour, etc. So the food laid out in the Onam Sadya must contain all the above flavours. All the foods served in the menu are purely saatwik and does not contain any onion or garlic.
Manu R Nair, corporate executive chef, Billionsmiles Hospitality Pvt Ltd, (Southindies, UpSouth and BonSouth) explains, “At Southindies, we have decided to take the Onam feast to the next level. Instead of a sit down banana leaf service we have laid out a lavish buffet comprising six unlimited starters, sixteen main course Onam dishes, eight unlimited mouthwatering desserts and blissful filter coffee to end your Onam culinary journey.”
Since Onam is known as harvest festival, talking about which grains, vegetables and fruits can be made a part of the Onam feast, Nair says, “Emphasis during Onam is always to include locally-harvested ingredients, fruits and vegetables. Various vegetables like snake gourd, raw banana, chowli, yam, beans, carrot, drumstick, red beans, red and white pumpkins are the some of the must-have ingredients in the Onam feast preparation. But there are no specific dos and don’ts while preparing an Onam meal. It’s a great time to be around family and friends, and cook a healthy and balanced meal.”
Nair has been living in Maharashtra for quite some time now, so has the local flavours influenced the Onam meal he prepares during the festival? “Maharashtrian flavours have indeed influenced some of my dishes in the Onam Sadya. Some of the Maharastrian Onam dishes included in this menu are Basundi Paniyaram, Green Chilli Thecha Potatoes and others. The only thing I am conscious while cooking is that it should be presented well and yes, obviously taste well too,” he says.
Talking about his Onam memories, the chef says that every Onam is a family get together. He says, “This is the time when all the family members come down from different cities, meet at one place and celebrate the festival together.”