Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Serving and Savouring a Sadya : Indian community dining in its complete spirit

Today I received an sms message asking me to book Vishu sadya and Vishu kani for an affordable amount in the UAE by contacting the given number. And that is how I thought I must amuse myself with this write-up on cooking up a sadya in one's own kitchen no matter how busy you are and how extensive the sadya items seem!

With the great Malayali festival Vishu coming this weekend, the mouth-watering feast or sadya is sure to be eagerly anticipated by anyone who has experienced the grand spread.
A sadya is a traditional feast from Kerala that marks the celebration and is a careful mixture of foods that optimises taste and the health benefits of the dishes.

Ayurveda classifies foods into genres — hot and cold — and designates a time in the day for every kind of food to be eaten.

In traditional households where they adhere to ayurvedic norms, sadyas do not feature non-vegetarian items, as mixing dairy and meat produces harmful toxins in the gut that can result in various ailments, ranging from skin conditions to malfunctioning of organs and nervous system in the long term.

Food is served on green plantain leaf, which when scarred by your nails as you scoop up the dish helps add fresh chlorophyll to your diet, which is highly beneficial for health.
Thottukoottan (those that you touch with finger tips and savour) items are readied two days prior to sadya. Manga curry (mango pickle), Inji curry (ginger relish) and vella naranga curry (white lime pickle) Tcha! ♡

The basic sadya is supposed to stand true as a feast and have every form of food produced in the state — fruits, vegetables, roots/yams, gourds, grains, seeds and dairy. Sadya will have a mixture of fresh and cooked ingredients of every texture — solid, liquid, semi liquid — covering a spectrum of taste — salt, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy. Sadya is served with warm cumin water, which helps digestion.
The big sadya lesson I have learned is that no matter how busy life is, a little planning can do wonders. We lead a work-centric life in the UAE, and many of us are pressed for time after office hours to cook even a simple dinner, so to dare to prepare an sadya spread can seem a challenge. But the good news is that it is not impossible, or expensive.
If you are open to microwave cooking and not too fussy about the traditional procedures that vary across the 14 districts of Kerala, a good sadya can be prepared, even after work or on a working week. But I must confess I threw away my microwave few years back and have understood that with effective planning you will not miss a microwave. 
Luckily for those who celebrate, this time it is on a Friday! UAE's weekend!
Fresh coconut and coconut oil, mustard seeds and curry leaves are must-haves in most Kerala recipe, and plantain leaves are to be used as plates. Start from left to right on the top half of a horizontally laid plantain leaf with the narrow end to your left and serve the dishes in order.
A typical Onasadya comprises the following items from left to right on the leaf: 1) injicurry/ginger relish; 2) narangacurry/white lemon pickle; 3) mangacurry/red hot mango pickle; 4) pachadi/cucumber raita; 5) red beetroot kichadi or white sweet pineapple raita; 6) mezhukkuvaratti/banana-corm-runner beans fry; 7) aviyal/mixed vegetables, made by cooking slender long pieces of corm, banana, drumstick, brinjal, cluster beans, cucumber and ash gourd cooked in a rough gravy of coconut ground with cumin, turmeric, tamarind and garnished with raw coconut oil as well as crushed curry leaves.
Then there is 8) olan/stewed red beans and ash gourd in coconut milk and 9) kalan/thick curd and half-ripe banana stew on the upper half of the plantain leaf. The lower half of the leaf is to be spread with the following dishes, again staring from left to right; 10) upperi/banana wafers; 11) chakkaravaratti/fried banana chunks tossed in jaggery; 12) pappadums, 13) poovan banana fruit. These items are to be confined to the one third of the lower half of the leaf.
The 14) rice, is to be mixed and eaten in courses with 15) paruppu/boiled lentils with a spoon of warm ghee; 16) sambar (the popular fiery dish); 17) pulissery/buttermilk soup; 18) rasam/lentil soup; 19) mor/seasoned buttermilk and finally — 20) adaprathaman/brown kheer made of flat bits of rice dough cooked and mixed with jaggery and coconut milk, flavoured with cardamom powder and garnished with fried cashew nuts, kismis and copra/dried coconut bits.
Of the above dishes, I’d advise you to buy and prepare in advance items one to three and 10 to 13, which will keep well. On the previous day prepare items 9, 17 to 19. And finally on the D-day (or V-day cos it is Vishu ;)) cook items four to eight, 14 to 16, and 20.
Vishu Sadya 2016
***The joy of community dining***

What is community? A place where everyone can find a place, whatever their outlook and beliefs may be. There is an explicit connection between food and love, according to Jean Vanier, in his book Community and Growth. The time when the joy of eating and drinking merge with the joy of meeting people - is a marvellous human moment.

Nourishing this space from where we can create our best work, our best life and share the joy with others is simply brilliant! This is possible when we acknowledge that it is in the stillness of this space where it all happens. This space where all creative expression, peace, light, and love come together is powerfully energising and renders a calming experience. I thank our loved ones for continously helping us deliver our bests.

This Friday, on April 15, 2016 we arranged a Vishu sadya for 23 of our close friends in the UAE. They are truly kind souls who express love in ways I may fail to explain with my limited vocabulary here. I was swamped by help from every direction on the day of the sadya. While I was busy with the chores that belong to the 11th hour - checking and ticking off the list for items that need to go on the leaf - suddenly felt a sense of inexplicable calm taking over me. I noticed that all around me, everybody was finding chores to do, and they were all happily filling in/flowing out magically... from our kitchen to every corner of our home. I was not even sure if I had anything more to do. I felt lucky to savour the joy of happy people busy doing their kind gestures. I was instantly satiated! My heart was lighter and full... and now I was seated too... with 28 items making one after the other to the bight green banana leaf... it was time to savour it along with all this joyous company!

I love sadya!!

Thank you for staying blissful in your abundance and spreading this weightless emotion among your loved ones and beyond. <3
Happy Vishu!
PS: If you missed the Vishu sadya, not to worry... with LuLu around any day can be a sadya day if you are in for some extra action! And follow Blukitchen to stay inspired all year round as well as get some key sadya recipes for free!!

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