The preparations for traditional onasadya or onam sadya begin well in advance. Pickles, ‘sarkara varatti’ and ‘upperi’ (banana chips) are made in advance. Some items like ingipuli and pachadi the day before Thiruonam. The number of vegetarian delicacies in an Onasadya today ranges from five to 12. Earlier it used be between 16 and 24 and in some traditional onam sadya it used be eight varieties of eight items that is a whopping 64. But nowadays the number of items is limited and non-vegetarian fare has also entered into the menu list.
Serving the onasadya is an art in itself. And eating the onasadya is an even bigger art. The traditional method of eating helps in digesting such a huge vegetarian fare.
Onasadya is served on banana leaves and it is laid on the table or ground and the narrow part of the leaf should always be on the left side.
Serving begins from the bottom left half of the leaf. In some areas a pinch of salt is kept on the leaf but some people avoid it.
- On the bottom left half of the leaf a small banana is placed.
- Next Pappadam (In some places later with the parippu curry)
- Then sarkara varatti (jaggery coated banana chips) and upperi (banana chips)
- Next from the top left half of the banana leaf ‘big lime curry’
- then, pickle
- Inchicurry or inchipuli
- Thoran (dry vegetable with coconut)
Now the plantain leaf is filled with all the side dishes and most people will have dipped their fingers in some of the delicacies to have a taste.
- The rice is served at the bottom center of the banana leaf.
- First, parippu curry is served along with ghee.
- Next rice is served with Sambhar.
- Next Kalan or Rasam
- Then comes the most anticipated part the Ada Pradaman (payasam or sweet).
The right way is to it on the banana leaf along with some small lime pickle. But sadly nowadays most people prefer it in cups.
Most people stop with the sweet but the traditional onasadya is not over yet.
- Some people take some more rice along with puliseri or mooru (curry from curd).
This helps in digesting the food.