Onam Sadya, also known as Onasadya is the grand vegetarian feast served on the banana leaf during the celebration of Onam in Kerala. It is a nine-course meal consisting of 11 to 13 essential dishes meant to relish your taste buds with all kinds of tastes: salty, spicy, sour and sweet. Rice is the main course. With rice, various kinds of dishes are served: Curries, Upperies (things fried in oil), Pappadams (round crisp flour paste cakes of peculiar make), Achchars (pickles of various kinds), Payasams and Prathamans (Desserts). Fruits are also served with the meal. The most used ingredient in all the dishes is coconut and coconut oil. Coconut milk is also commonly used in cooking, as coconuts are in abundance in Kerala and are a main ingredient in almost all Keralite dishes. Also, the variations in the menu can be seen these days, depending on the place and religion. Traditionally, Onasadya is supposed to be a complete vegetarian meal, but some communities in northern part of Kerala include non-vegetarian dishes as well.
There is a distinct order in which these dishes are supposed to be served on the banana leaf that is laid with end towards left. Pappad or pappadam is to be served on the extreme left. On top of the big pappadam banana is served. The banana can be 'rasakadali', 'poovan' or 'palayankodan'. From the right, salted pappad, banana wafers, sarkarapuratti fries are served. After this, ginger lime and mango pickles are served. Next served is 'vellarika', 'pavakka', beetroot and 'ullikitchadi'. 'Kichadi' made of pineapple and banana splits or of grapes and apple is served along with this. On the right, 'cabbage thoran' is served. Then is the turn to dish up a thoran made of beans followed by bread and green peas mix 'thoran'. The meal will be complete with the 'avial' and 'kootu curry'. Rice is served when the guests seat themselves, on the mat laid on the floor and about two big spoons are considered enough. After this 'parippu' and ghee is poured. Then Sambhar is served. Dessert round begin with adaprathaman followed by 'kadala payasam'.
The dishes of almost every colour and taste are placed on the green banana leaf. This colourful arrangement makes the food look even more tempting. The mains are gravies served over the rice in courses. There's an art of portion control here that makes sure you have small portions of rice with each course of gravy so that you won't get full before you finish the whole round. The Onam Sadya is generally served for lunch but the preparations begin the night before. The dishes are readied before ten in the morning on the day of the grand feast. Sometimes, neighbours also lend a helping hand in cooking the delicacies and serving the food to the guests. Traditionally, the meal is followed by vettila murukkan, chewing of betel leaf with lime and areca nut. This helps in digestion of the meal and also cleanses the palate.