Ireland has witnessed many exciting food festivals and events in August (think The Big Grill Festival, Dublin, or The Rockin’ Food and Fruit Festival in Wexford.) But do you know, there’s yet another festival and feast that simply cannot be missed this month?
What’s that, you ask? It’s Onam. An annual 10-day harvest festival that is predominantly celebrated in the state of Kerala in India, it acts like a magnet for foodies.
That’s because apart from the various cultural activities, Onam offers an opportunity to experience the traditional Onam sadhya in dublin.
Trust us when we say that this meal is an experience like none other. As a part of the meal, you are served 26 vegetarian dishes on a banana. These include poppadum, mango curry, sweet and salty banana chips, a mixed vegetable dish made by combining 13 vegetables and grated coconut, a variety of sweets… (See the full list of items at the end of the article.)
Thanks to the sizeable Malayali/Malayalee diaspora from Kerala who now call Ireland home, you can get yourself an authentic sadhya experience in many parts of Ireland.
But first, a little bit about what’s so special about the Onam sadhya meal, and the way it is served.
Salt first, sweets last – the intricacies of a sadhya meal
If you have your meal in a community setting, you will usually be sat at a long table, along with other guests. All the food will be served to you – one by another, and the servers will keep coming to the table to offer multiple servings.
So, what comes first? The banana leaf which will be your plate.
There’s also a particular order in which the various items are served – for example, salt is placed first, followed by savoury and sweetened banana chips. These will usually be placed on the lower left of the leaf. Then, various pickles,
curries, pachadi (a kind of a yoghurt raita), kichadi (gourd in yoghurt curry) and others follow one by one. These are placed on the upper half. The rice is in the center. The meal often ends with payasam (a sweet preparation) and buttermilk. Once the meal is done, the leaf should be folded and closed with hands, signifying satisfaction.
We know this sounds very tempting, so here’s a list of venues where you can book your meal.
Find Onam Sadya at Dublin
The complete Onam sadhya experience – Monsoon, Stillorgan
A special Onam thali will be available every Saturday and Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm till August 31st at this Indian restaurant and takeaway based in Stillorgan.
Arun Jaryal, Manager, Monsoon, Stillorgan shares, “We have always celebrated Onam at our restaurant; it was a way to connect with our staff from Kerala. This year, we are also offering the Onam feast for all our guests, and it comes bursting with authentic flavours and is the complete package – the food is unlimited, and our staff also serves it from traditional pots. From saucy curries to dry dishes and sumptuous sweets, everything is served on a banana leaf, and while you are encouraged to eat with your hands, there’s no shame in using cutlery as well. Needless to say, it’s been received so well. We have a lot of Irish guests who come in on the weekends and are mesmerised by what the other guests have ordered. Even if they are new to the concept of a sadhya meal, they are instant converts and order it right away.”
Sample Pradhaman (a traditional Keralan dessert) – 3 Leaves, Blackrock
“We will be dropping some cooking videos on our social media pages in the coming weeks, highlighting some of the dishes served for Onam Sadhya. Pradhaman will also be served at 3 Leaves for two weeks to commemorate Onam,” says Milie, who along with her husband Chef Santosh, is behind this unique Indian casual dining room that has been recommended by Michelin since 2019.
“My first memory of traditional Onam sadhya was when I was 12 years old. I was invited to my friend Kala’s home. She lived with her extended family in a large Hindu household. I fell in love with it since.
Onam sadhya meals include steaming boiled matta rice accompanied by 26 different vegetarian dishes with a range of flavours sweet, tangy, salty, spicy, cool, and
refreshing. There’s a discipline behind how this meal is served and eaten. A clean banana/plantain leaf is placed in front of the guest with the tapering end of the plantain leaf pointing to the left of the guest. Pickles, chips, poppadum, and banana is placed on the left side of the leaf. Side dishes like erissery, avial, thoran, pachadi, olan, kalan etc. are then served on the top part of the leaf. Onam sadhya does vary from region to region in Kerala. In the north of Kerala, it may include fish and meat while in the south it’s exclusively vegetarian,” shares Milie.
Social Space Ireland and MISD Onam celebration – South Dublin
This celebration includes cultural celebrations, the sadhya meal and lots of traditional Onam games like the Vadamvali (tug of war).
Taking place in South Dublin, it is brought to you by Malayalees in South Dublin (MISD) in association with Social Space Ireland. The event will be held on August 26th at St Brigid Hall Stillorgan, from 11 am to 5 pm.
The tickets for the celebration are priced at € 22 euros per person, and this includes the Onam sadhya. The feast at this event will serve 23 delectable items.
Thumbapoo’23 – Bray Onam
Thumbapoo’23 – Bray Onam celebration will be held on 26th August 2023 at Woodbrook College Bray from 10 am to 6 pm. The event promises cultural programmes and lots of fun activities for adults and children alike.
While the event itself is free to attend, if you want the traditional meal, you need to buy a ticket. The ticket is priced at € 25 for adults and € 15 for children.
Kerala House Onam Sadhya 2023 – Tallaght
This festive event takes place in Tallaght on August 29th, and you can buy a ticket for partaking of the classic Keralan meal. It’s priced at € 17 for adults and € 12 for children.
Prebook an Onam sadhya meal for delivery at home – Galway
If you are in Galway, you can have the sadhya meal delivered to you at your home. All items will be carefully packed in a box, along with a (paper) banana leaf so that you can get the feel of an traditional meal. You can book your meal with Asialand, at Unit 5, Cuirt na habban, Lisoban Industrial Estate, Tuam Road,
Galway H91X201. Alternatively, you can call them on 089 249 0690 to book a home delivery of the sadhya meal.
Know your Onam sadhya – deciphering the delicacies on your leaf
Kaaya Varuthatha (Banana chips)
Chenna Varuthathu (Yam cut into slices and fried with spices)
Choru (Boiled rice)
Sarkara Upperi (Banana chips coated with jaggery)
Pulinji (Tamarind-based chutney)
Ada Pradhaman (A classic dessert from Kerala)
Paal Payasam (A rich rice pudding variety)
Parripu Curry (A preparation of plain moong dal topped with ghee, red chillies, and black sesame seeds)
Kichadi (Gourd in yogurt curry)
Pachadi (Pineapple or bitter gourd in yogurt)
Olan (Ash gourd with beans in a thick coconut milk gravy)
Theeyal (Mixed vegetable gravy)
Avial (Vegetables made with coconut and milk)
Kalan (A dish made with elephant foot yam, plantains, coconut, and curd)
Sambar (South Indian lentil and vegetable stew)
Inji Curry (made from ginger, tamarind and jaggery)
Ellisheri (a curry with pumpkin, red beans, and a generous amount of grated coconut)
Rasam (A soup of spices)
Thoran (A dry vegetable dish)
Moru Curry (Buttermilk curry)
Palada Pradhaman (A sweet dish made with milk, dry fruits, and rice ada)