Sunday, April 24, 2011

#100 Celebrating my One Hundredth Post with a Vishu Sadya!!!

I am on my one hundredth post today!! Yay...I must pat myself on the back because it gives me so much satisfaction in sharing my kitchen experiences with the world.  I just did not get to post my Vishu Sadya until now since procrastination has got the better of me these days:(
Let me remind you that I am celebrating my one hundredth recipe post on a pretty big scale....  with a belated Vishu Sadya.... A very Happy Vishu(belated) to all those who celebrated it!!   Vishu is one of the Grandest celebrations in Kerala .  I will be posting about 3 recipes from the Sadya due to limited space and time.
You're probably wondering what all the excitement is about? Well, here's why......
Vishu is the New Year and is celebrated as the harvest festival of Kerala. Kolla Varsham is the calendar followed by Malayalees and Vishu falls on the first day of Kolla Varsham. In 2011 Vishu was on April 14th.
Vishu kani has great significance on this day. In each household family members prepare a large bronze pot called the “uruli” and fill it with Konna(yellow flowers), betel nut, raw rice, lemon, cucumber, bananas and coconut. This signifies the Vishukani and is placed in the pooja room for darshan early in the morning. I still remember my Grandma walking my cousins and I at the break of dawn, with our eyes shut.. to the pooja room so that the first thing we see when we open our eyes is the Vishukani, the lit brass nilavilakku or metal lamp in front of Lord Krishna.  For many years, when my daughters were young I continued  this ritual so that they get to experience Vishu in the US and the first thing they saw when they open their eyes was the sight of the Vishukani. I am glad I instilled this in them because around the first week of April, I usually get requests from both V and N about the menu for Vishu!LOL!. Of course, this year we had a wonderful time chopping vegetables together and setting up the table and enjoying the meal. Thanks girls!!

The Hindus of Kerala also celebrate Vishu by wearing Kodi Vastram(New Clothes) and visiting the temple.  The elders in the family distribute tokens of money to their children, family, and anyone employed by them so this is an eagerly awaited festival!! Reading verses from the Ramayanam is also considered very auspicious on Vishu and is said to bring good luck and blessings for the New Year.
The characteristic feature of Vishu is the feast. This my Vishu feast but on a much smaller scale(16 dishes- tand the chips were store bought :))  than the traditional feast .....
Now, talking about 'feasts'....... A vegetarian feast is served on fresh plantain leaves. The main attraction on  festivals, marriages, birthdays and special ocassions is the long lasting feast or “Sadya”. The Sadya includes many courses of vegetarian dishes served with rice. Traditionally the pink colored parboiled rice is served  along with about 13 to 25 dishes the number can get higher sometimes. The most common Sadya dishes are
Rice, Sambhar, Parippu, Rasam, Pulissery, Aviyal, Thoran, Inji Curry, Erissery, Kaalan, Olan, Pachadi, Kichadi, Pappadam, Lemon pickle, cut mango pickle, Upperi, Sharkara Varatti, Pazham, Buttermilk, Payasam and Prathaman. As you can see I have made a much smaller version since I had to do it on my own with a little help from R, V and N.  All curries are made of different flavors, sweet mango, jaggery, tamarind, a variety of vegetables and fruits and coconut milk to include equal portions of salty, sweet, sour and bitter tastes for a party in your mouth . In addition to crispy crunchies like pappadam, Upperi and Sharkara Varatti, there is the Payasam, Banana and Prathaman that fall under the “dessert” category.
It is very interesting to note that there is a specific place to serve each dish on the plantain leaf. The pickles are served on the top left corner of the narrow part of the leaf and banana on its lower half. Always the right-most dish is Aviyal or Erisseri.
The mound of rice to the left is the second course when Sambhar is served. the third and fourth courses may be Kalan, rasam, Buttermilk and sometimes Pulisseri
There is so much more to Kerala than spice and food---Kathakali –the temple dance, the elephant parade and boat festival are all feasts for the eyes.  I can find more than one reason for anybody to be enamoured by the  lush greenery and abundance of waterways in this little southern state of India-- The Periyar National Park, the Tiger reserve and the royal residences of the Maharajas of Travancore are just a few of the well preserved works of art from ancient history.

In her book Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts Ammini Ramachandran talks about ancient spice trade in Kerala and how it influences the culture and cuisine.  Just a few excerpts from her book and I was astonished at the depth of information she has covered to portray real life in Kerala. Born in a Nair family from Kerala, she moved to the US in the 1970s and is a freelance food writer, a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Association for the Study of Food and Society and Culinary Historians of New York. In her book she talks about how the abundance of black pepper and spices attracted the Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch and British from the west and the Southeast Asians and Chinese from the east to Kerala.  It was fascinating for me to know that trade between these countries resulted in the settlement of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities in this little state, which in turn is the reason for the integration of the different fruits, nuts, spices and vegetables into Kerala cuisine. We see how food is once again reflective of the many culture combinations of settlers.  What astonished me is that I found one of my Grandmother's recipes at Indira's wonderful website where she talks about my favorite recipe from Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts.........
The Pacha Sambar used to  make a visit quite often to my Grandmothers' dining table and I loved the beautiful aroma when she simmered it slowly over the fire.  All this time I believed that this recipe originated  from her creative mind, although she always joked about it saying that this recipe was from her old Royal family roots in Palghat. Now I know she was serious about what she said. Recently I read about it's origins on Ammini's website where she talks about the Royal Family recipe of Pacha Sambar. Keep reading for  the Pacha Sambar entry that I hope to re-create in my kitchen soon!

Anyway, here are a few of my Sadya recipes from the feast and photos above..

Pumpkin- 1/2 lb
Green Chillies- 4 slit lengthwise
Coconut Milk- 1/2 cup
Curry Leaves- 1 sprig
Coconut Oil-1 tspn
Fresh Indian Long beans or black eyed-peas- 1/2 cup
Salt to taste

1. Cut the Pumpkin into small cubes that are about 1/4 inch thick.
2. If you are using Black-eyed peas, pressure cook them until about done.
3. If you are using fresh long beans cut then lengthwise about 1 inch long and cook.
4. Place the pumpkin in a pan with 1/2 cup water, salt and green chillies and cook until soft.
5. Add the cooked beans and let simmer until it boils. There should be barely any liquid left.
6. Turn the fire off and add the coconut milk, curry leaves and coconut oil and mix well.


Aviyal is the star of the feast and stands out from everything else on the leaf. It has a typical Kerala style thick and creamy mixture of a lot of vegetables(mostly drumsticks, eggplant, plaintain, snake gourds, elephant yam and others) This mixture is then seasoned with coconut, curd and curry leaves and is an essential part of the feast.  I find it easier to make aviyal with whatever vegetables I can find in the market right here.
I have not found fresh elephant yams in the stores so I eliminate that vegetable from my aviyal. I do substitute with vegetables like frozen drumsticks and snake gourd and combine fresh vegetables like
eggplant, carrots, cucumber, raw plantain, long runner beans, raw mangoes but I refuse to use potatoes or onion just because it does not give it the traditional taste. 

Eggplant- 1 Indian style
Raw Plantain-1
Long runner beans- 7
Raw mango-1
Green chillies- 5
Red Chilli powder- 1/4 tspn
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tspn
Freshly grated coconut- 1 cup
Yogurt- 1 cup
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tspn
Curry leaves- 3 sprigs
Salt and coconut oil to taste

1. Cut up all the washed vegetables after scraping the skins off of all the vegetables except the mango.
2. Keep aside the shallots and green chillies and make long sticks of the rest of the vegetables about 1-2 inches long and about 1/4 inch thick.
3. Keep them in spearate batches since each has a different cooking time.
4. In a food processor or blender make a course paste from the coconut, green chillies, cumin and shallots and keep aside.
5. Place a pan on the stove add about 1/4 cup of water and start cooking the raw plantain and long runner beans.
6. Add just enough salt and turmeric powder to start.
7. When half cooked, add the rest of the vegetables and the chilli powder and cook adding no water on a very low flame. The cucumber and eggplant will  give out its juices and create enough liquid to cook the vegetables.
8. Make sure you do not stir or disturb the vegetables(at the same time make sure not to burn them) since we do not want a mushy vegetable aviyal at the end.
9. On a low fire, cook the vegetables carefully for a few minutes and add the coarse coconut paste. Now, toss or mix gently to spread the paste.
10. At this time make sure the vegetables are just about cooked and keeping a lid on the pan allow the flavors to blend well.
11. Turn off the fire, add torn up curry leaves, coconut oil and gently fold in the yogurt at the end.
12. The aviyal is  now mixed really well to make sure the vegetables are not mushy but there is not any extra liquid at the bottom.

INJI CURRY- Hot, sweet and sour Ginger Chutney

Ginger Root- 2 cups(washed, skins scraped and cut into very thin slices)
Tamarind paste- 1 Tblspn
Water- 1 cup
Brown sugar or Jaggery- 1 tspn
Turmeric powder- 1/4 tspn
Asafoetida- 1 pinch
Methi Seeds- 1/8 tspn powdered
Mustard seeds- 1 Tblspn
Green chillies-3 cut up
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Red Chillies whole- 2
Oil and Salt to taste

1. Take a table spoon of Oil and toss the Ginger root slices in it and spread evenly in a baking pan
2. Broil on Low until the slices are almost golden brown in color.
3. In a blender blend the ginger discs along with the tamarind paste, brown sugar and 1/2 cup water until grainy but smooth.
4. Keep a deep pan on the fire, add 1 Tblspn oil and seasoning of mustard, red chillies split up and curry leaves.
5. When the seeds splutter, add green chillies and then the ginger mix very carefully and the rest of the water and more if needed to cook down the ginger.
6. Add turmeric powder, methi seed powder, asafoetida and salt to taste.
7. cook well until it is thick and cooked down. Taste to make sure the seasonings are perfect and remove from fire.
8. Cool and store in jars it will stay in the refrigerator for a week.


  1. great post and I never knew there is a special place for each dish on the banana leaf good job I didn't add food onto it in India!

  2. Wow! You've been busy! Congrats on the 100th post and Happy (belated) Vishu to you! These recipes look fantastic! I learn so much about foods I've never heard of on your site. I enjoy it.

  3. Hi Malli, thank you very much for stepping into my blog and the warm have a very interesting blog, I am still reading it :)....nice to know that you live near by too...will keep in touch....take care :)

  4. A huge congrats on your 100th post, Malli! This looks like quite an amazing feast to celebrate!

  5. I am so glad to have found your blog. This is really amazing and very interesting to read. Thank you for sharing this.


    Keep cooking, great job Andi

  7. delicious feast looks wonderful
    congrats lovely blog

  8. Congrats on your award and what a lovely feast.

  9. OMG. Wonderful feast. Wish I had them
    Congrats on your 100th post
    South Indian Home

  10. Malli, that's a great stock of information. I would look forward for the pacha sambar recipe. I had the pleasure of feasting on a menu that was made from Ammini's book. It was fantastic feast I still remember. I always look forward to Onam sadyas

  11. And congrats on your milestone!

  12. Thanks for visiting my blog and for ur sweet comments !! U have an excellent space !! Happy to follow u !!

    Congrats on ur 100th post !! awesome feast and very interesting !!

  13. what a grand and absolutely glamorous 100th post - Each of those dishes looks mouthwatering good! Vishu was certainly a super hit at your home dear :)

  14. Congrats dear on your milestone wish you many many many---- more to come! What a feast you have created here- everything looks so authentic, perfect n mouthwateringly delicious!
    US Masala

  15. All these dishes look just delicious! I love Kerala food, my Indian friends come from that area and I really adore all of their specialties.


It’s always a pleasure to get feedback from all our readers. Please leave your name or contact info. Thanks for stopping by!

Print Friendly

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF