Tasting Notes from the Onam Sadya

Tasting Notes from the Onam Sadya

Cooking a full-fledged sadya can be daunting — here at Goya we’ve come up with a buddy system that preserves the sense of community that is at the heart of the meal, without having to spend a full day in the kitchen — double the deliciousness, none of the stress! Check back every day for a new recipe!

The story of Mahabali is a well-known one. However, the tale of the brave and just king is worth retelling especially in troubled times. Under his rule, the kingdom flourished in a golden age of peace and prosperity, with a deeply content, and casteless society. But the gods, jealous of his people's love and devotion, tricked the king out of his kingdom. To save his people, King Mahabali offered to sacrifice himself, and so, was banished to the netherworld. 

But the gods who tricked him, moved by the king's gesture of great personal sacrifice, granted him one wish — and Mahabali asked for the chance to return to his homeland once a year, to visit his people. 

To mark the annual return of the king, the people of his kingdom — all over Kerala, and within the Malayali diaspora all over the world — hold ten days of extravagant celebration. There are boat races in the backwaters, homes are decorated with flowers, and a lavish feast is prepared with the harvest of the land.

No matter where in the world you are, if you are Malayali (and sometimes, even if you're not) the Onam sadya comes calling this time of year. Yes, you could book a table at a restaurant, and enjoy the elbow jostle of sitting banana leaf to banana leaf, as buckets of food brimming over, pause in the aisle, to refill your ela again and again, and again. 

But this year, we decided to prepare the sadya in our own homes — because what better tribute to Mahabali than filling your kitchen with the aromas of Kerala — coconut oil, raw banana, slow-cooked payasam. It can be daunting, of course. But if like us, you tag-team with a friend and cook a dish or two over the 10 days of Onam, you'll be surprised at how easy cooking up a sadya really is. At the end of our little project together, Aysha said, “We should be eating sadyas everyday!” That should tell you everything. 

Although we could have sourced the recipes for these much-loved sadya dishes from cookbooks and quick phone calls to family, we decided that we were going to let the rabbit-hole of youtube videos be our guide. The role that youtube videos now play in the preservation of hyper-local cuisines is heartening, and we want to pay tribute to this. Many of the videos are low-budget productions, with bad lighting, but we think we may have just found the new ‘learning to cook at your grandmother’s elbow’ equivalent!

Join along as we cook 2 sadya dishes every day. You can use the recipes we share, and remember to tag us on your social media (@goyajournal) to show us what you're cooking. 


Tart, super-spicy with a lingering hint of sweetness, injipuli is made with obscene amounts of ginger, tamarind, and green chilli, and a wee bit of jaggery. A tiny flick of this sauce is enough elevate a meal. Make it on the first day of Onam, and it will keep in the fridge to pull out and enjoy through the 10 days of feasting. Get the recipe.

Injipuli - The Goya Onam Sadya Cookalong

Tomato Pachadi

This is a side dish that cane be made in 15 minutes with ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen. Delightfully sweet and tangy, it is the corner of your sadya leaf with the brightest, boldest flavour. While there are many types of pachadis — pineapple and cucumber being popular ones — if you’ve never made pachadi before, tomato pachadi is your gateway dish, as it is very hard to mess up. Get the recipe.



There's a reason that avial is a year-round favourite. It is the perfect way to use up all the leftover veggies in a delicious, tangy dish that you can smush into your rice and create a satisfyingly slurpy meal. Get the recipe.



This beans thoran is a dish we return to again and again. Between the lightly sautéed beans, a generous sprinkling of coconut, and the gentle bite of green gram, this dish is full of texture, high on protein and simply top notch on flavour. Get the recipe.



The Kerala sambar, like the avial, accommodates all variety of vegetables, from potato to pumpkin and kohlrabi. It is thick and tangy, a slow-moving river of flavour that dredges a central pathway through the ela sadya. Get the recipe.



The surprise winner of our onam sadya cookalong, this delciious reduction of pumpkin and jaggery in a sauce grainy from coconut flakes, is all kinds of finger licking magic. And like most dishes on the sadya, erissery walks the fine line between sweet and spicy flawlessly. Get the recipe.



A dish that is all about elegance in simplicity, olan uses just a handful of ingredients. Cooked with green chilli and coconut milk, it is subtle and comforting with the merest hint of lingering heat. Our learning on this one: choose a great coconut oil to finish the dish, and that will make all the difference. Get the recipe.



Although pachadi is the more popular side dish, kichadi quietly packs a punch with its sharp mustard undertones. A heavy-hitting dish that is versatile and never boring, given a chance, it can be the best thing on the sadya leaf.. Get the recipe.



This bright yellow gravy is sunshine on your plate, and its flavours are equally captivating. Full bodied and tangy, it is the perfect option for when you’re in the mood for something cooling. Get the recipe here.


Kootu Curry

The Malayali love affair with coconut is at its zenith in kootu curry which uses coconut in three forms: as oil, as well as fresh and roasted coconut. What results is a richly textured dish with earthy as well as fresh flavours in every bite. Get the recipe here.



Parippu s the first course of the Onam sadya. Served with a generous smattering of ghee, it is heaven in a bite. The Onam parippu is special because it is made with coconut, which makes it creamier and subtler than the everyday parippu. Get the recipe here.



Spicy, with a zing that hits you in the back of the throat, rasam is a light broth that has big flavours. Unlike other types of rasam, this one does not require a rasam powder, and is incredibly simple to make. Besides the Onam sadya, this is also a great recipe to pull out when you’re feeling under the weather and need a quick and easy pick-me-up. Get the recipe here.


Ada Pradhaman

Made with coconut milk and jaggery this pradhaman is the perfect ending to an exemplary meal. Jaggery instantly adds depth and complexity, while the coconut milk makes it rich and unctuous. Ada is made from rice and adds a delightful texture to the pradhaman. Get the recipe here.


Here’s a playlist of videos that helped us as we cooked our Onam sadya:

Tag us on your sadya photos on Facebook and Instagram using #GoyaEats!

Banner image credit: George Augustine