Sunday, September 10, 2006

Onam - II

And then there’s the sadhya. This time was really special for me – my sis had cooked the full sadhya for the first time, and I was really looking forward to trying it out.

First, a description of the sadhya. It starts with a banana leaf –no plates, no spoons, no forks, nothing but your fingers. We start with the banana chips (salted and sweetened), pickle and puli-inji (tamarind and ginger dish) on the left (oh yes, position of each dish is of utmost importance in the sadhya). From left to right, on the top half of the leaf, there is a serving each of olan (dish in coconut milk), cabbage upperi (cabbage side-dish), aviyal (mixed veggies in a yummy semi-solid sauce that I can’t define) and kadala koottu (a dish made from channa and yam), with a pappadum or appalam on the side. There are three courses in this sadhya – rice with sambhar, rasam and curd. And all this is followed by dessert. Here’s a graphic showing how it looks (I was too busy eating to take any photographs):

On to the feast itself: The rice is heaped on to my leaf and some ghee added – yeah, dieters pleas to avoid. Sambhar is added in large goops in the middle of the rice, and the rice-sambhar mix mashed well to get the right sambhar:rice ratio and consistency. By this time, my mouth has watered itself dry. I try each side dish once, deciding which one I’m going to favor for this session – it’s the aviyal. I feel sorry for the rest of the table since they aren’t going to see much of that dish. I plough into my sambhar rice hill, making quick dips into the side dishes, rarely talking or making eye-contact with anybody on the table. My family knows how hungry I can get when I haven’t had good mallu food in days, and doesn’t bat an eyelid, but the good neighbour, who we’ve invited to partake of our feast, doesn't know this yet and proceeds to pepper me with well-meaning questions. She is quickly quietened by my mono-syllabic responses to her questions.

- How is work? - (Gulp. Chew. Gulp.) Good (Chew.) - How is Mumbai? - (Drink water to push down food faster. Chew. Gulp.) Good. (Chew.)

You get the general idea. By now, I’ve worked through the sambhar rice, and then it’s rasam rice. I pass with great regret. I’m a good South Indian and am able to estimate, with great accuracy, how much curd rice (thayir chor) I need to feel good about life. My earlier profligacy with the sambhar rice means that I don’t have the capacity to take in the rasam before the curd. I promise my mom and sis I’ll have a little rasam in a glass so I can at least taste it. The curd rice is, well, curd rice, what can I say? It is comfort food par excellence - chocolate doesn’t even come close. Anyways, curd rice requires a blog by itself, so that’s for later.

After the curd rice, comes dessert: paayasam. There are two – a vella paayasam and an ada prathaman. The first is a gur-based liquid preparation with added chakka (jackfruit), a little too sweet for my liking, but like the rest of the dishes, outstanding in its preparation. I switch to the ada prathaman – it’s sweetened milk with ada (a rice preparation) in it. The ada prathaman is just right, and completes my meal.

I haven’t felt better, and it’ll take a lot to get the smile of contentment off my face. Life’s SO good.


Blogger Sunisha said...

too good a description. I could almost relate myself going through the same ritual. The only difference being I had a hand in the cooking as well :-D.. Am sure you must be a frequent visitor of The Rice Boat (Bandra esat). They have the saddhya, both veg n non-veg... Bon Apetit!

3:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home