Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala

Kerala-Style Feast

A typical Kerala-style meal which is served during festivals, birthdays etc. is called sadya. The food is served in large banana leaves, and consists basically of rice, a variety of curries, pickles, fries, yogurt, banana, and one or more sweet dishes. Most of these preparations are coconut-based, and non-vegetarian foods are not used in any of the preparations.

The banana leaf should be placed with its pointed end towards the left side of the person having the meal. Before serving rice, a series of dishes like upperi (gravy-less vegetable), thoran (gravy-less vegetable with grated coconut), aviyal (mixed vegetable curry cooked in yogurt), kichadi and pachadi (vegetable preparations in fresh yogurt,), olan (black-eyed beans cooked in coconut milk), fries (fried raw banana and pappad), puliyinchi (tamarind chutney), and pickles are served on the outer portion of the large leaf-plate. Then steaming rice is served in the center (more towards the lower half of the leaf) on top of which hot lentils and ghee is ladled out. After all that comes the sambar – made of split red gram, tamarind, vegetables, and spices like asafetida, fenugreek, chili, and coriander.

As people start consuming the sumptuous spread, the servers bring the sweet dishes called payasams. At least one of the payasams will be milk-based, made of thickened milk, sugar, and rice or ada. The other sweet is generally jaggery-based, made of coconut milk in combination with banana jam, jackfruit jam, wheat, green gram, bengal gram, rice, or ada. Lastly, there will be curds, a curd-based dish called kalan, and a hot, peppy, preparation called rasam made of tamarind, lentils, and spices. With that a typical sadya is complete.

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