Here’s everything you need to know about the wedding sadhya
The traditional wedding sadhya—a purely vegetarian feast—is the most elaborate and anticipated aspect of the Kerala Hindu wedding celebrations
Indian weddings are always a celebrated affair, no matter which part of India you belong to. And when it comes to a typical Kerala Hindu wedding celebration, the grand feast has always been intriguing to out of station guests. Sadhya literally means banquet, and is almost always a vegetarian affair when served for lunch at weddings, although a lighter version is served for dinner too. Typically, it is served only at Malayali Hindu weddings and consists of a minimum of 20 items served on a banana leaf, though the food item count can go as high as 40, complete with dessert and fruit helpings. Sadhya is not just served at weddings; it is also served during festivities and celebrations such as Onam, Vishu and birthdays.
THE KERALA WEDDING SADHYA
Traditionally, this wedding meal is served on the banana leaf. Besides being eco-friendly, a green banana leaf is fresh, healthy and hygienic. And the food served on it can be consumed with your bare hands. Moreover, since ghee and oil do not stick to the banana leaf, relishing each food item becomes easier. From placing the banana leaf to the items served, the sadhya is always served in a unique way. The manner in which the food is served on a sadhya is also equally important. Firstly, the banana leaf is placed before a person in such a way that the narrow part of the leaf points to the left. Then, the servers start placing each dish from the top left corner of the leaf, in a particular order. The top half of the banana leaf is reserved for the variety of accompanying dishes, while the lower half is for rice and the dishes are usually served from left to right.
Here’s a low-down on the typical Kerala wedding sadhya food dishes.
TOP HALF OF THE BANANA LEAF
Initially, a small-sized banana, sharkara upperi (jaggery-coated banana chips), fried banana chips and pappadam are served, followed by different types of pickles and injipuli. These are followed by various dishes such as thoran, olan, avial, pachadi, kichadi, erissery, kalan and kootukari.
Injipuli: It is a dark brown, sweet-sour and spicy Keralite curry made of ginger, tamarind, green chillies and jaggery.
Thoran: This side dish is prepared with grated carrot, coconut, coconut oil and curry leaves, and is usually eaten with steamed rice and dosa.
Kaalan: This dish is often mistaken for avial. It is made of yogurt, coconut and a tuber-like yam. It is cooked with spices, curry leaves and a few drops of ghee over a low flame and is sourer than avial.
Olan: The dish consists of Ash gourd, black-eyed beans prepared in coconut milk with a hint of green chilli and curry leaf flavours.
Avial: A mix of all kinds of vegetables is cooked in curd, coconut, curry leaves and coconut oil.
Erissery or Koottukari: The erissery consists of yellow pumpkin and coconut gravy while the koottukarior kootucurry is a mix of vegetables and chickpea.
Kerala pappadam: This is the fluffier and crunchier version of the papad and is deep-fried in coconut oil.
Pachadi and Kichadi: Pachadi is similar to the raita except it uses a combination of grated cucumber sautéed along with deep fried okra with coconut and yogurt, while the kichadi uses only curd.
BOTTOM HALF OF THE BANANA LEAF
Rice and Dal/ Sambar: Once all the items are served on the top half of the leaf, rice is served after the guests’ seat themselves at the table. Dal (paruppu) with ghee is first served, followed by sambar. As you finish your rice, rasam is served to mix with your remaining rice.
Payasam: A variety of payasams are served towards the end of the sadhya. The palada pradhaman is the most popular of them all— the milk kheer is prepared with rice flakes (ada) in large vessels over the wood-fired ovens that impart the delicate pink colour to the dish. The parippu payasam and milk payasam are the other brown varieties of served at weddings made from lentils. Lastly, buttermilk is served, which is said to aid in digestion.
Banana: The meal usually ends with a sweet banana that is served at the bottom left corner of the banana leaf thus, helping servers to identify any additional items that need to be served.
The sadhya also scores a few points from a health point of view. One of them being the seated posture while eating the meal, which helps digestion and restricts the quantity of food one consumes. The compilation of the sadhya menu also has added health benefits since it is well balanced in terms of flavours. Take for instance, the avial that consists of six or seven different kinds of vegetables, thoran, pachadi, erissery, olan that are extremely rich in fibre and nutrients. At the same time rasam and buttermilk, with green chillies, ginger and curry leaves, served at the end of the meal aid in digestion and offset the effects of the culinary indulgence.
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