Attempts at a Sadhya- Part 1: Payasam and Pulli Inji

A couple of years back when I was still new in Dubai, I went looking for a Sadhya meal on Vishu day and discovered that it was all booked. If one wanted to have an Onam or Vishu sadhya at a restaurant, they had to reserve their place at the restaurant or book in for delivery well in advance. I had tasted Sadhya just once before then, at the time of my wedding and had instantly become a fan. And because of this lack of opportunity, I craved it even more until I went scavenging the internet for recipes and tied the apron strings!

And the rest as they say is history.

Well, actually, I shouldn’t boast as I am still learning and experimenting with south Indian cuisines and am far from being called an expert. A lot of advice comes from my mother-in-law who knows so many recipes that it amazes me. There are a few simple ones that I manage to conjure up on these festivals and it leaves me with a very satisfying feeling of having cooked a special meal for myself and loved ones.

For the uninitiated, Sadhya is an elaborate vegetarian meal that is served traditionally on a banana leaf and has a number of sweet, sour, salty, savoury, tangy dishes and is prepared on special occasions like Vishu: the Kerala new year, Onam: the Kerala Harvest festival and on weddings.


A Sadhya served on a banana leaf at a wedding

Payasam is also an integral part of the Sadhya meal and is a very versatile dessert. A simple Payasam can be made with vermicelli or rice with milk like kheer. There are other types of payasam made with moong dal and jaggery as well besides the many other types that I’m not even acquainted with yet.

I usually make the Vermicelli Payasam like the one in the image below as it is quicker. You can make it like a simple kheer by replacing the rice with toasted vermicelli. You can check out Kanika’s recipe for Kheer on the blog.


I have, in the past, tried making  Parippu dal curry, Avial, Payasam and Sambhar as part of the Sadhya but I’m sharing a simple chutney recipe here that can really lift up an Indian meal with it’s complex flavours. Pulli Inji is a chutney made of tamarind, ginger, green chilli and jaggery along with other spices. If reading the names of these ingredients didn’t make your mouth water, then the actal chutney definitely will.

To me Puli Inji epitomises the sadhya as it tastes sweet, tangy and hot, all at the same and it leaves an aftertaste that you crave even more. You can find two thoran recipes and a Parippu Dal curry recipe on our blog which are often a part of a sadhya.

You will need:

1 lemon sized ball of Tamarind or 2tbsp tamarind paste
2tbsp chopped ginger
2-3 fresh green chillies
1/2 cup or a medium sized chunk of jaggery
Salt to taste
2-3 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp Fenugreek powder
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
A sprig of curry leaves
Red chilli powder
A pinch of Asafoteda
1/4tsp turmeric

(Statuary warning: The flavours are so strong that they may make you and others in the house sneeze, but trust me, it’s all worth it!)

Dry roast the fenugreek seeds and grind them. Chop the ginger and green chillies. Soak the tamarind in hot water and mash with a spoon after 5 minutes. Strain the tamarind water to be used later and you’re all set.

Heat oil and add mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the ginger, green chilli, curry leaves and salt.

Fry till the ginger is cooked. Add the tamarind water, jaggery, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and let it cook on low heat till the oil separates. This is when it comes to a rolling boil and looks syrupy as the jaggery has melted and blended into the concoction.


At the end add fenugreek powder and mix. Let the chutney cool and store in the fridge. This will stay good for at least a week. Serve with dal and rice and the rest of the sadya!


Read Attempts at a Sadhya- Part 2: Parippu Dal Curry

Other Sadhya recipes:

Beans and Cauliflower Thoran

Rice Payasam or Kheer

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