August 30, 2011

How to eat a Mallu Wedding-Sadhya: a step-by-step guide

*Image courtesy Google Images

Before I start the class, it is important that I ask a very pertinent question:-
Are you a speed-eater?
a) Yes
b) No

If your answer is (a), you don’t need my help. Go ahead my friend! Pig out!
If your answer is no, read on. Take accurate notes.

Step 1:- Take a good long look at the plantain leaf in front of you. Chances are, you won’t recognize half the things on it. Take a chance and start tasting them anyways.

Step 2:- Start eating and finish off half the things on the leaf before they come with the rice. Because once they bring out the big basket of rice, it’s a race against time. (That could make a good action-film title, no? “Sadhya- the race against time…”)

Step 3:- Have you finished eating half the things? Good.
Now once you see the servers approaching with the basket of rice, get into position. Position is- right hand to the side of the leaf, with the palm closed together to form a cone. This way, you can save the bother of getting your hands into position later.

Step 4:- Once they serve the rice.. Oops, pardon me. Once they dump the rice onto your leaf, get to work immediately. The first thing to do is make a hole in the centre of the mound of rice, like a well. Then break the pappadam into small pieces and keep it ready.

Step 5:- When the servers bring the dal and ghee, they will know where to pour it once they see your leaf. If you’ve already dug the well, good for you. If not, good luck washing your expensive silk saree/mundu.

Step 6:- Now is when the actual challenge begins. Here on, you need complete concentration. Do not look left or right, do not wonder at the colour of the dal or size of the rice, do not admire neighbour-aunty’s saree and do not indulge in idle chit-chat. Remember, if anyone’s trying to make small-talk, they’re only doing it to distract you.
Start mixing the rice and dal and ghee together. If you want, you can add one of the other assortments also. Don’t bother about chewing and all. Remember to eat the other side-items at regular intervals.

Step 7:- Before you can finish your dal and rice, they will bring more rice and sambar. Do not fret. Just move the dal-rice to one side of your leaf and make space for the fresh batch of rice and for sambar. In between, take half a second to make a well in the rice.

Step 8: For the time-being, forget about the dal-rice that lost the race to time. Concentrate on your sambar-rice. Break pappadam -> Mix in sambar-rice -> Eat it ->a bite of side-item. This is the order to follow. By now, you should have finished most of the things on the leaf. If not, buck up!

Step 9:- Before you can finish the sambar-rice, they will bring out the payasam. Move the sambar-rice to one corner and make space for payasam. Eat the payasam fast, because there’s not one more, but two, possibly three, more following. Finish the first round of payasam. If you haven’t, it’s ok. They all taste pretty much the same anyways. So even if the second payasam is poured on top of the first, it won’t make THAT much of a difference. This same law can be applied to all the following rounds of payasams. They will bring boli in between, to eat with the paal-payasam. If you’re the adventurous will-try-anything-once type, go for it. For added kicks, mix a banana also into it.

Step 10:- Once all the rounds of payasam are over, your banana leaf will resemble a rangoli that has been messed up by the neighbour’s bratty kids. Many colours, but you can’t figure out which belongs to what. After all this, they will bring rasam, puliserry and moru (buttermilk). If you still have the energy, have those as well.

Step 11:- Ah wait! You thought it’s over? Not so fast! Do you remember the dal-rice and sambar-rice that you abandoned for tastier treats? Who’ll finish them? The uncle sitting in front of you? Chalo, now move those two mounds to the centre of the leaf. Mix them both together. Then put whatever else is remaining on your leaf into this mixture. Mix very well. Then take a deep breath and eat this concoction. Don’t worry, nothing will happen to you. Your stomach has been subjected to enough already. This won’t make a difference.

Step 12:- Fold the leaf neatly, to signal the end of your roller-coaster ride. Have some of the piping-hot water that’s sure to burn your tongue. And yes, because you can’t afford to spare 3 bucks for a lemon in the market, pocket the lemon that came along with the meal. Nothing to be ashamed of.

There.. you’re ready now. Go out there and face the world! Err… I mean, the sadhya.

And don’t forget to let out a loud burp at the end of it all!

(After-effects of having gone for a wedding and eaten a sadhya. *BURP!!*)

Payasam- kheer


  1. Step 2 and step 12 : I totally Agree!! :D I do it aaaallll the time!

  2. true and imagine some ungles and andy's manage to go for second and third servings! :D

    Hilarious...In Ernakulam and Thrissur, we are generally spared the ghee-dal and boli :)

    Oh, but isn't it yummy? :) I have some hundred sadyas lined up for the month. All points taken. My speed is somewhere between bit fast and a bit slow! :p

  3. I am a speed eater...but I need your help anyways.. :D


  4. I can see the Mallu energy in you is overflowing like a flooded river now that you are in Mallu-land.

    Hilarious eating tips, fortunately I hog nearly at the speed of light, so will pass on your tips to someone who genuinely needs them.

  5. Priceless I tell you. ROTFLOLMFAO :D

    And burp? Whatever happened to be lady-like:P

  6. So so true :P
    I wish we had ice cream and biryani at Malayali weddings.

  7. Lol!

    I also attended a wedding on Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it! Seeing your post reminded me of the Sadya :S

    Boli is supposed to be had with Paalpayasam, is it? I kinda enjoyed it with the Sharkara payasam. Is that wrong? :D

    I absolutely love Sadya and manage to have a clean leaf at the end of it :)

    And thank God you changed the 'title font' for your posts - the older one was getting difficult to read (yes, the Virgoan in me noticed it! ;))

  8. Ha reminds me of home! I just missed a sadya today, and now I miss it a lot more! Can't wait for Onam :P! Explained in the exact way it is supposed to be. And you missed the final, dirtiest and main part- licking your fingers at the end of it all :D!!!

  9. I do not see paalada prathaman in the image :P Is it not an integral part of a sadhya?

  10. Hey! Hilarious post! I guess I could be called a speed-eater, but I still loved reading the tutorial.. :D :D
    Have an award for you @ which I'm sure you have already, but I'm still sending it your way.. Hope you accept! :)

  11. reminded me of the last sadhya i had at a wedding...!!!! i must say its a war between the person serving n the person who is eating... worse is if you think that you will finish whats on plate and then have the second set of item being served.. thats when you end up wit a messy hand dripping curry and an empty leaf in front staring at everybody else.. cos the person serving the second item is lost..!!!!! and then right when you have lost all hopes of eating that item ( cousins n frnds will surely mock at your stupidity of missing it.. after all how hard was it to accomodate???) right in the middle of your 4th round.. the person comes exclusively announcing and asking "who was the person who missed teh second item of rice n sambhar..??" and since everybody is looking for the person who was THAT stupid.. you pretend to look at someone else as if it was not you..!!!! well.. "sadhya" at weddings can be difficult if one doesnt have the knack of it.. so THANK YOU for sharing..!!!! :)

  12. My auntie is married to a Tamil guy, and I had the experience of eating at their daughter's first birthday, which was a typical South Indian lunch. If I'd read your post a couple of years earlier, I might have fared better, but after what seemed to be a culinary hurricane (they kept pouring everything onto our plates with the delicacy of a rampaging rhino, at intervals of about 30-40 seconds),I was left in peace with the finger bowl and the lemon. That's what I ended up with. Lemons :o
    Brilliant post :D

  13. Ohhhh My God... !!!

    And to think that all this while I was pestering my sis to prepare a complete Mallu meal for me when I come there...

    Gosh... I'm a foodie. But I guess I'll need to re-assess that status once I'm in Kerala. :P :D

    By the way, the initial leaf (as shown in the pic above) looks real yummy... :P

  14. Hi my first time here was sent over by pencil girl and what do I see a blog post all about eating and I love to eat which is the reason I am a big woman........I see the word rice and I think yum I love rice.

  15. Lol!!! Can't stop laughing!!!
    Glad that I came here! :)
    Nice blog!

    Keep writing!

  16. @confused soul: Thanks! :)

    @The Meditating Lion: Oho!! So for my wedding, I'll give you about a dozen lemons if you want :p

    @Destiny's Child: Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of sadhyas. Which is why I throw a tantrum when forced to go for weddings. If there was a piece of fish fry also on the leaf, I would've happily had it. :P

    @Kunnu: Anytime! :D

    @Atrocious Scribblings: Ya ya, full overflowings. :D

    @Priyanka: Ladylike? In a sadhya? Have you seen the women rushing and nudging people to make it into the dining hall? :/

    @cricketfreak: I swear!! I make it a point to go only for the receptions as much as possible. At least the food there is good. :P

    @Vinitha: Err.. I didn't change my title font. Was it too difficult to read? I'l change it now.

    @Deepthi: Ah, yes yes. And it's not just the fingers. When they pour the moru into your hand, it tends to dribble, right? Some people lick the backs of their hands also. :D

  17. @Ashwin: Oh yes, it's very integral. I actually didn't notice that this pic didn't have it. What an observation, I say! :D

    @Pencil Girl: Thank you so much! I'm truly honoured. :)

    @Supernick (yes, I refuse to add the extra letters): Whhoa!! Looks like quite an experience! You can actually enjoy a sadhya only when you have it at home, where no one's rushing to dump things on your leaf. At weddings, they just come and go at the speed of lightning. And it's not even like a local train that if you miss one, another one will come in 15 minutes. :/ If the payasam is gone, it's gone.

    @Sushmit: Thanks! And lemons are quite tasty too, you know. So no loss, actually. :p

    @Shobhit: Arre if your sister makes it at home for you, it's ok. Because there's no hurry. This is only wedding-specific. :)

    @Jo-Anne Rambling: Even I love rice. And the rice loves my tummy. It shows the love by giving me an ugly tummy. :/
    Thanks for dropping by! :)

  18. Loved the post! I also love Sandhya. I've been invited to such events only a couple of times and am craving more after reading this. I think I should do a similar post on Kashmiri wedding wazwaan (my husband is Kashmiri). Thanks for the inspiration! :)

  19. Hey... That extra 2 r's n k's ve been added for according to numerology..!!! An Indian superhero does have his afflictions right :D:D

    comin to sadhya dilemma... True.. Sadhya at home is peaceful.. No one counts the no. Of papadams you take.. Or the no. Of payasam serving... Nanam venda... Sontham veed ale.. Ishtam bole kazhicholu...!!!! :D:D this dialog is true only at ones home...!!!


  20. Thankyou!!I needed this real bad!1But next post could you dedicate it to teaching me how to have payasam from the banana in directly without squashing it all over my dress?

    awesome post!

  21. awesome!!!!!!!no no AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!:)im all hungry now

  22. @Sumira: Hey thanks! :) Glad to hear that yo'll finally get back to blogging. :)

    @Supernick: Cheers! :D

    @Red Handed: Err.. That would require a video-tutorial. :/ Let me see what can be done. :P

    @rj praveen: :D Head over to Ootupura o Onam day, you'll get sadhya there.

  23. Hahahahaha... good one.
    Having eaten more sadyas in my hometown back in Kannur than in Trivandrum, I am yet to come to terms with the habit of mixing the boli with payasam and the banana (if possible). It kinda diminishes the whole pleasure of eating/drinking the payasam. And being an out and out mallu, I still haven't learnt how to eat/drink payasam from the 'ila' properly. Next sadya I need to make an honest attempt!

  24. Loved it! Don't recall the last time I did all these. :) Hey I will be so thankful if you can go through my blog and suggest me ways to better it, please...

  25. @Musings: I cannot imagine mixing the boli with the payasam and eating. Ayyo!!

    @Deva: Thanks! :)
    Will definitely take a look at your blog. :)

  26. Hahaha... Kala Kalakkan post!!

    Now the thing is everytime I eat sadhya, I will remember this post... n I'm sharin this with my friends whom I'm treatin to Onam sadhya next week :)

  27. @R-A-J: Ya ya, don't forget to pocket the lemon at the end! :D

  28. hey ammukkutty..u have a real talent..didn't realize you write so well..was thoroughly entertained by this blog..keep going gal!..

  29. Superb.I miss a sadya and I want one right now...

    And one more thing.After the burp,find the nearest bed,put on the fan and sleep till it's time for evening tea.:D

  30. I loved the descriptions !!! the reading was awesome.... was laughing all the way,.. keep up the good work.. am now a big fan of your writting.. :)

  31. haha :D You know I seriously don't recognize half of those things but I'd love to try :), I have never been invited to a mallu wedding :(. invite me to yours please :)

    And happy birth month :)
    Yayy, we're coming to life :)

  32. LOL! Awesome post! I really needed this 'coz
    a) Am a slow eater
    b) The servers always dump 'a lil extra' when they see me (maybe they think am a starving kid just 'coz am thin)
    c) I always end up leaving half the things un-touched!

    Now every time i sit down to eat like this am sure ill remember this and laugh my a** off!

    Great post!

    Oh am new at ur blog.. following u! :)

  33. I haven't in a long while read with such fascination something I don't fully understand and won't probably use. I'm a very slow eater and just reading about such a quick meal is making me dizzy.
    You have a talent for captivating your readers, I must say. :)

  34. @Sunita: Thank you so much, chech. :)
    Hope you're doing well.

    @Blue Lotus: Oh ya, I forgot that step! Vyary vyary imbaartent. :P

    @Sparkles: Hey thanks. :)

    @Serendipity: I'm not a fan of sadya. So if I have my way, on my wedding, people will be served chicken biryani. :P
    And happy birth month to you too! :)

    @TheGirlAtFirstAvenue: In between all the laughing, don't forget to finish whatever's on your leaf. ;)
    Thanks for dropping by, lady. :)

    @Lavi: Thank you so much, Lavi. :)

  35. Ayyo ayyo ayyo! :D True only. I hate it when the the rice and dal and the curry are all put together. Bah! And then in the end mummy daddy wondering why dress is spoiled!! And then the cooks lungis resemble mini skirts. How on earth one eats watching them pull their lungis up? :\

  36. @DawnZhang: The mini skirts and the exposed legs is their USP no re. :P

  37. Good description of an Onam/wedding sadhya...good to have it once in a way...healthy

  38. @ayapRads: Ha, 'once in a while' being the key phrase. :)

  39. Alas!! If I knew this at least 20 years earlier! Now that I think about it, the only proper sadya I have eaten is from my own wedding. Where they waited patiently, since I was the bride!


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