Tips for hosting a Kerala sadya at home

Since Vishu, the zodiac new year celebrated by Keralans is just around the corner, I thought doing this post now might be useful for some of my followers. I have been consulted a few times regarding tips on cooking a ‘sadya’ meal at home.  Having been cooking sadya meals every Onam (and sometimes for Vishu too) for the past 18 years in our US home does qualify me for advising folks I guess. We usually host an average of 3-4 families. I get a lot of questions from new cooks all the time! “Chechi, help!” ‘How many dishes to cook?’ ‘How much quantity to cook’ ‘Will there be enough food?’ ‘I have never cooked for so many people’ ‘Will all the food be fresh for the sadya?’  And so on and so forth. Well, my response is always the same – “Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. Its all about planning and once the plan is perfect, execution will be a breeze!”  I guess all my years leading projects at work has also helped me to execute successful sadyas 🙂  Plus I did have the best resources available to me – my husband and I together make a great team 🙂 So before embarking on this particularly adventurous mission, my strong recommendation to you is to first enlist your spouse’s or family members’ support! It will be much needed!

These are some steps that I follow for hosting a successful sadya whether it is for Onam or Vishu or just any other day when you feel like having a sadya meal.

  1. Create a Menu:  Take a pen and paper and scribble down the menu items.  I prefer pen and paper to doing it electronically since paper makes it easy to scratch off things while still letting you see what changes you have made. Just my personal preference but you can use a notepad on your phone or computer as well. Write down the different dishes you would like to make.  Sambhar and Avial I think fall in the ‘must-have’ category meaning they absolutely need to be on the sadya menu or else you won’t have a sadya! Another ‘must have’ are pappadums! After that, come all other lentil or bean type curries – let’s call this ‘Other curries’ – like erisseri, parippu, moru kootan, green mango curry, potato stew etc. I like to include at least two from this category.  Next would be ‘dry vegetable dishes’ like cabbage thoran or green beans thoran or kadala and kaaya thoran etc.  A fourth category would be all spicy and tangy ‘pickle type’ curries called as ‘thodu curries’ – these include paavakka varatharachu curry, pearl onion curry(Ulli curry), Pulli inji (ginger curry). Another very important ‘must-have’ item of the sadya is the ‘Paayasam’. Which paayasam to make?.  Although it is traditional to make two varieties of Payasam, I would recommend doing only one since not only is it time consuming to make two different payasams but after the heavy sadya, in my experience, folks generally will not have room for two different payasams and so it becomes a waste of effort. Decide which one you want to make. ‘Paladda’ is always the easy one and everyone loves that so its a safe bet. If you are ambitious enough to make Parrippu paayasam then so be it – you just need to plan adequately for it.

Here’s what a sample menu would look like. Other than the ‘Must-haves’, you can      pick one or two from each category

Main Dishes (Must-haves) Other Curries: Vegetable side dishes: Spicy and tangy (Thodu) curries:
Sambhaar Erishery Cabbage thoran Pulli Inji
Avial Mooru Kootan Kadala kaaya koottu Paavakka varatharachu
Paayasam Pacchadi Paavakka thoran Ulli curry
Pappaddum Rasam Manga curry
Parrippu curry Manga Pickle
Potato curry Lime pickle

2. Decide how much quantity to cook for each dish:  This depends on your final count. hence get a final count of people sufficiently in advance. Once you have the final count, divide by 4 (for the 4 categories of dishes you have) and that’s how many people you should cook each dish for. The logic behind this is that since you have so many dishes, you don’t need to make huge quantity of each dish.  For deciding the quantity of rice, I take the total headcount and take about 25% off – again the logic being that having a variety of dishes means that folks get full without eating too much rice. So if I have a head count of 20 people and say in general we cook about 1/2 cup of rice(uncooked) for 1 person for a regular meal, which would mean cooking 10 cups of rice, but for the sadya 75% of 10 i.e.  7.5 cups of uncooked rice should be sufficient. For doing all the above, if you are going to be following some recipes from your favorite sites, then make sure you print all of them first and then prepare the grocery list.

3. Plan the grocery shopping: Prepare the grocery list based on 1 and 2 above. And do the shopping sufficiently in advance -at least 2-3 days before the sadya weekend. Include all other ancillary items like plantain chips, plantain leaves, small bananas and any ready made pickles. Make sure you check the quantity of rice you have in your pantry and add to the list if you are short.

4. Stagger the cooking – Begin cooking in advance: 3-4 days before you can make the pickles or tangy curries like the paavaka curry or inji puli since they don’t spoil and keep well. 2-3 days before you can make moru kootan or mango curry etc.  1 day before you can make sambhaar, erisseri and payasam and also finish all the prep work for all the rest of the dishes. For example, finish chopping all vegetables for avial which is best when prepared the morning of the sadya. All thorns with fresh coconut should also be prepared on the morning of the sadya. You can fry the papadums the previous day but make sure to keep them in airtight containers to prevent them from getting soggy.  Create a project plan one week before the sadya so you don’t forget any important steps.  The plan need not be detailed but would look something like this :

Sample project plan:

  • Weekend 1 week before sadya/ 3-4 days before sadya day – Grocery shopping,
  • Thursday – Moru kootan, Pachadi, Inji Puli,
  • Friday – Chopping all vegetables for avial and sambhaar, make sambhaar, make payasam, fry papadums
  • Saturday(Day of sadya): Cook rice, avial,cabbage thoran

5. Ask for help: After completing steps 1-3, take a step back and do a reality check. See how you feel about executing the plan. If this is your first time doing something like this and if you don’t have enough help at home (for example having young kids etc), then consider delegating some tasks to some of your expected guests. Chances are some of your guests may call you in advance offering to help and if you are feeling overwhelmed then that would be a perfect time for you to ask for some help. You can outsource tasks like grocery shopping – either all or some items, ask them to cook one dish or just request if they could stop by early that day in the morning before the sadya – a set of hands always helps, right?

Hope these tips are helpful! What are some tricks you use for hosting a sadya at your home? I would love to know! Happy Feasting – Have a spectacular sadya this Vishu!

Tangy Bitter gourd curry (Paavakka Varutharachathu) and a round up of Onam Sadya recipes

kaipakka curryHappy Onam to all those who celebrate this festival which celebrates food! Onam sadya (feast) includes an array of delectable, comforting vegetarian dishes made from the choicest and freshest vegetables which include a variety of gourds, pumpkins, green beans, carrots, cabbage as well as starchy vegetables like taro root, elephant’s foot and green plantains.  Coconut is an essential ingredient in almost all the dishes and coconut oil is the main cooking medium imparting so much flavor that you remain licking your fingers! Yes, you have to eat the sadya, which is served on a banana leaf, with your hands to truly savor it.It is an unique gastronomical experience involving all the senses 🙂

We are so fortunate to be able to continue this tradition even in our US home – yes we get frozen plantain leaves from our local Asian grocers and they are of a pretty good quality too! Today I wanted to share this bitter gourd curry which I had been meaning to post for a while. This curry is served for sadya as a ‘thodu curry’ which means kind of like a chutney or pickle to relish on the side.  The bitterness of bitter gourd is tamed by the addition of tamarind and a pinch of jaggery. This time my dad who is visiting us made a version of this curry using kodampuli for me since I am avoiding tamarind. Believe me the curry tasted equally good even with the substitution.

So Happy Onam and Happy Feasting! Scroll below this recipe to see a round of all the sadya recipes that I have posted before.


Tangy Bitter gourd curry (Paavakka Varutharachathu)

  • Servings: Makes about 6-8 servings as a side dish
  • Time: about 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print


1medium sized bitter gourd (paavakka or karela) seeds removed and cut into thin rounds(reserve a few slices for garnish)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

Masala for grinding:
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or frozen that has been thawed)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chilli pow
1 tbsp coriander pow

  • 1/2 cup warm water

1/4 med onion sliced thinly
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 green chili, chopped
3-4 curry leaves
1 dry red chilli
1/2 tsp salt

Tamarind pulp 2 tbsp (or 2 small pieces of tamarind/kodampuli soaked in 1/4 cup warm water)
1 cup water
1 tbsp jaggery pieces or grated


First cook the paavakka slices in the 1/2 cup water and 1/2 tsp salt for about 3-4 minutes so that they are just partially cooked (You can also cook in the microwave for 2 mins). Discard the water and strain and keep the paavakka slices aside.

Roast coconut for about 10-12 mins on low med heat until light brown – take care not to burn it. Grind this and all the other ingredients under masala into a paste using the 1/2 cup warm water. Keep this aside.

In a medium flat bottomed cooking pot, heat the coconut oil and the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, lower heat and add the onions, green chili, salt,red chili and curry leaves.  Add the paavakka slices and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium. Salute for another 2-3 minutes or so. Then add the ground paste and again state for another 2 minutes.

Finally add the tamarind pulp (or kodampuli) and jaggery and the extra water. Let simmer so that the jaggery is all dissolved and the curry thickens. Add additional water if needed but curry should be thick. Check for salt and add more if needed.

Lightly Fry the reserved pieces of paavakka in a small pan with little coconut oil and add to the top.

kaipakka curryAnd here’s the round up of all sadya recipes:

Parippu curry (Lentils in coconut milk)

Parippu Curry

Sambhaar (Lentils and vegetable curry)


Avial (Mixed vegetables in coconut sauce)


More Kootan (Yoghurt and coconut curry)

Moru Curry

Mathanga Erishery (Pumpkin and red beans curry)

matanga erissery

Cabbage thoran (Cabbage sautéed in coconut)


Kadala and kaaya thoran(Green plantain and black chickpeas)

Kootu curry (Kadala)

Inji Puli

Pulli Inji

Kumbalanga curry/Olan (Ash gourd in coconut milk)

Kumbalanga curry

Kumbalanga pachadi(Ash gourd in coconut and yoghurt sauce)

kumbalanga pachadi

Paalada Payasam (Rice noodle Pudding)

Paal ada Paayasam

Parippu payasam (Lentil Pudding)

Parippu Paayasam




Ginger and Tamarind Chutney (Inji Pulli)

DSC_0710A Kerala sadya (feast) is not complete without the ‘Inji Pulli’ (also called Pulli Inji) which is a sweet,sour and hot chutney made using fresh grated ginger,tamarind,j aggery and chillies. Just the mention of the ingredients makes your mouth water, right? Yum. This chutney actually is very beneficial to the digestive process and enables you to finish the sadya without feeling stuffed and bloated 🙂

This dish along with some other pickles etc are made usually a day or so in advance of the actual sadya since it stores well. In fact you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. When we have our friends over for our Onam sadya, this chutney is in much demand and any leftover chutney is snatched by them. 🙂 And many have asked me for the recipe.

So here I am finally posting it. My version of this recipe is a slightly easier version than the traditional version which requires frying and then grinding the ginger first and then cooking it for a longer period of time to really get a thick chutney. My easy version skips some steps but believe me you still end up with a finger-licking chutney/pickle.  This is a great accompaniment/side dish with paranthas and or just with some dal and rice.

The color of the chutney will vary from light brown to dark brown depending upon the color of the jaggery and the tamarind. Here I used a light brown jaggery hence the light brown color of the chutney.

I am sharing this tantalizing, rejuvenating and lip-smacking ginger chutney to Fiesta friday this week.

Ginger and Tamarind Chutney (Inji Pulli)

  • Servings: Makes about 1 cup chutney
  • Time: about 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3/4 cup ginger grated
  • 2 green chillies chopped fine
  • 5-6 fresh curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 /2 cup water
  • Golf size ball tamarind soaked in 1/2 cup warm water( or about 2 tbsp store bought tamarind pulp)
  • 1 tbsp jaggery shredded or cut into small pieces


Grate the ginger using a grater and keep aside.

Heat a medium size wok style pan (Kadhai). Add the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, lower heat to medium and then add the ginger and the green chillies and the curry leaves. Saute the ginger,chillies and the curry leaves for about 3-4 mins. Add all the spices and the salt and stir for another 1 minute. Add the water. Cover and cook for about 10 mins on low heat.
From the soaked tamarind, take only the pulp out and filter out seeds and the flesh. Add this tamarind pulp and the jaggery into the ginger mixture. Continue to cook on low heat for another 7- 10 mins stirring frequently until you get a thick pasty consistency.

Let cool and transfer to a tight fitting container.  This chutney can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to a week.



Onam Sadya Special: Lentils in coconut milk (Parippu curry)

parippu_onamIt’s Onam again! And I should say Onam week since Onam is perhaps the only Indian festival that lasts for 10 days! Of course only folks in kerala get a chance to celebrate it for 10 days. Less privileged ones like us have to wait for the weekend. But celebrate we will. And how? By cooking an array of delectable vegetable dishes all of which have coconut in varying forms and serving them on plantain leaves for a food feast called as ‘sadya’.  Onam I think symbolizes simple pleasures! Being a harvest festival, it underscores the fact that the best foods/recipes are the ones that use the freshest produce with a minimum of ingredients. Fresh from the farm to the table is what Onam always signified although the modern world is only appreciating it now!

DSC_1137 Last year I posted my dad’s special parippu paayasam.Today I wanted to post ‘Parippu’ curry recipe which is simply lentils in coconut milk. There are different variations of this Parippu curry – some folks use yellow split lentils and also use ground coconut instead of coconut milk. Thiis version is my amma’s version where she used always thick coconut milk. She also used to add potatoes to this curry – I don’t remember when she started doing that but I suspect I had something to do with it – I loved potatoes as a kid (and still do! ) and wanted it in every dish! Now this lentil and potato curry in coconut milk is equally loved by my kids too!.  It is very mildly spiced and the coconut milk makes it so creamy and yummy 🙂

Wishing a happy Onam to all those who celebrate 🙂

I am bringing this simple lentils and coconut curry to Fiesta Friday this week.

Lentils in coconut milk (Parippu curry)

  • Servings: Serves about 6-8 as a side dish with rice
  • Time: 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 1 cup toor dal (or split yellow dal), washed and drained
  • 1 medium size onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 green chillies, slit length wise
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large potato, cut into cubes
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk (see recipe for extracting coconut milk below) or canned coconut milk
  • 1 fresh sprig of curry leaves
  • 1 tbsp of coconut oil or ghee


In a pressure cooker, add the washed lentils with the onions, green chillies, salt, turmeric and water. Close the cooker and cook till 3 whistles. Keep aside to cool and then add the potatoes and cook on simmer (without whistle) for 5-7 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. (add more water if needed)

Add the coconut milk and stir and cook for about 1 minute until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn heat off immediately.  Add the fresh curry leaves and the coconut oil or ghee.

*For extracting coconut milk:

1 1/2 cups fresh or fresh frozen grated coconut(thawed)

2 cups of warm water

Blend the coconut with 1 cup of water in a blender or food processor. strain and collect the coconut milk in a container. Add the coconut meat back to the food processor and again blend with the rat of the warm water and strain again to get about 2 cups thick coconut milk. Discard the coconut meat.


  • If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can cook the lentils in a regular cooking pot slightly uncovered with double the amount of water for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.


Adzuki Beans and Pumpkin coconut curry (Matanga Erisheri)

I did a guest post for Elaine from foodbod this week. And of course since this was for Elaine it had to be vegetarian, gluten free and healthy! So I thought of making this red chori (adzuki beans) and pumpkin curry. Check out my recipe by visiting Elaine’s blog where you will find hundreds of other delicious and healthful recipes! 🙂 Click this link to go to her blog: Matanga Erisheri recipe – Guest post for Elaine

Welcome to this week’s WWYFM? post, coming this week from the lovely Indu from Indu’s International Kitchen, a blog packed full of fabulous recipes which Indu manages to find the time to not only cook, but blog about too, in her busy world! I’ve lost count of how many of Indu’s recipes I’ve loved and liked and the many conversations we’ve had: just another of my lovely international friends that I’ve made in blogworld 🙂

So, what would you feed me, Indu?

Elaine was one of the very first friends I made when I started
blogging a little over a year ago! And who doesn’t like Elaine? Her
warmth and kindness easily comes through her delicious and healthful
recipes as well as through her blog. Elaine is the Goddess of
everything ‘Healthy’! She not only strives to make healthful dishes
but she also is extremely creative about doing so! She has made an
incredible array of dips thus far, each one outsmarting the other in
terms of creativity of blending ingredients and acquiring perfect
textures! As for salads, Elaine has one for every day of the year!
Just check out her recipe index if you don’t believe me!

So when a few days ago, she asked me to write a ‘guest post’ for her
‘What will you feed me’ series, I was more than ‘honored’ …I was
simply ecstatic! And I also knew instantaneously what I would make for
her! There was this delicious red beans (adzuki beans) and pumpkin
curry that is a traditional kerala dish that I had been meaning to
post for some time now but somehow never managed to until now and so I
thought that was something Elaine would just love! This curry is also
served as one of many side dishes in a Kerala vegetarian feast (sadya)
which is served over a banana leaf. But when served with some cooked
parboiled rice, this can be a perfect comfort meal.! The red beans and
pumpkin in a coconut gravy is a delicious combination of flavors –
mildly sweet, mildly spicy and so creamy!

Red chori(known as payaru in malayalam) also known as adzuki beans,
are small, oval, dark-reddish brown beans. They have a strong,
unsually sweet flavor and creamy texture. In India it is more commonly
used in south indian cuisine. They are also called as red cow beans
and these beans are highly nutritious – rich in protein, fiber and
folic acid.

This curry is fairly easy to make as long as you have a pressure
cooker (to cook the beans) and a food processor to grind the coconut!
🙂 Yum! Hope you enjoy this delicious curry and thanks Elaine for
inviting me to make something special for you! I wish I could invite
you in person to my home and treat you to an entire Kerala sadya! 🙂

Adzuki Beans and Pumpkin coconut curry (Matanga Erisheri)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3-4
A delicious curry made of adzuki beans and pumpkin in a coconut curry base which can be eaten with rice or simply served warm as a soup!
  • 1 cup red chore or payaru (adzuki beans)
  • 1½ cup water
  • 1¼ cup pumpkin pieces 1 inch by ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp red chilli
For the ground masala
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut that has
  • been thawed to room temp)
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ cup warm water to grind
For the tempering
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies (optional)
  • 4-5 fresh curry leaves
  • extra 8-10 pumpkin pieces for topping
  1. Rinse the beans in water and place in a pressure cooker with the
  2. water. (Do not add salt now as the beans will take longer to cook).
  3. Pressure cook for 3 whistles. Take off the heat and let cool for a few minutes until all steam has escaped and open the cooker.
  4. Add the pumpkin pieces to the cooked pairu by adding the additional 1 cup
  5. water, salt and red chilli powder and cook again covered (without
  6. whistle though) for 2-3 minutes until the pumpkin pieces are cooked.Take off heat and keep aside.
  7. In a food processor, combine all ingredients under ‘ground masala’ and
  8. grind everything to a fine paste. Add this paste into the bean and
  9. pumpkin mixture and turn the heat back on. Cook for 1 minute or so
  10. until the mixture begins to boil and then immediately turn heat off.Set aside.
  11. Finally in a small pan, heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds
  12. and heat on medium until they start to splutter. Turn heat to low and
  13. add the dry red chillies and the fresh curry leaves. Then add the
  14. extra pumpkin pieces and fry lightly for 2 minutes until the pumpkin
  15. pieces are cooked and add the entire pumpkin and oil mixture into the
  16. cooked bean and pumpkin curry and stir.
  17. Serve the curry hot with some cooked parboiled rice.
You can cook the beans even in a regular pot instead of a pressure
cooker however, you will need extra water and will need to cook for a
longer time 9at least 20 to 30 minutes)
The red beans if very old could be really hard (depending upon where
you buy them) and in which case soaking them in water for a couple
hours would be best.
You need to use good quality coconut and pure extra virgin coconut
oil! to get the best taste.( I prefer Better Body Foods brand of
coconut oil and Daily Delight brand of frozen grated coconut)