How to Serve a Sadya – Sadya Recipes

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The letter ‘H’ was another question mark for me in the A-Z series. But then, I wanted a post on how a sadya is served and voila! the letter H is not a problem anymore…

‘How to serve a sadya?’ That’s what this post is about.

When one is invited for a wedding, house warming, pooja ceremony or any function, its the host’s responsibility to serve the food as well. When you attend a function, say a wedding – after all the socializing, mingling, catching up with friends & relatives are over, after the groom has tied the mangal sutra around the bride’s neck, you greet them – wish them well and then head out right to the dining hall to silence your growling stomachs. Waiters, arranged by the catering guys, will be waiting to serve you a hot full course vegetable meal on a banana leaf – a sadya!

A sadya is nothing but a vegetarian festive food, served on a banana leaf. Many dishes are prepared and served. On the banana leaf, there is a place for each and every dish, though this changes from place to place and community to community.

Food is served right after the main function is over- in case of a wedding, its the tying the mangal sutra. Depending on the number of people attending and the seating capacity of the dining hall, there will be multiple batches to accommodate everyone.

I am talking about wedding sadyas here. For Onam, the main difference is that the entire sadya is prepared at home. Some of the items like Sharkara varatti, chips etc are store bought sometimes for convenience, but the target is to make as many dishes as possible at home itself. Serving is done by family members and the feeling of togetherness is just great :-)

In olden days, people would sit on the floor while the food is served, but now, its tables and chairs in all the dining halls. You have a separate dining hall in all the wedding halls (mandap) so that people can have food without disturbing the function/wedding.  Sometimes the functions go on for a long time even after the main ceremony is over.

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Serving a sadya is usually a team work and there will be around 5-10 guys just for this job. Food is cooked in really big vessels and for serving, food is transferred into clean steel buckets. This is carried by the waiters and served for each of the guests.

The dining halls will have straight long tables on both sides. For a wedding Sadya, the servers will first clean the table and cover the table with a disposable paper roll. Then as people take the seats, the serving guys keep a banana leaf in front of each person. Another person with water to drink and to sprinkle some on the leaf to clean it.

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The banana leaf is placed so that the wider side is on the right hand side of the person eating the meal. You have to eat the food with your right hand (no fork/knife/spoon/eating with left hand).

So wider end on right hand side makes it easier to take the side dishes and mix it with rice and eat. Left end is the less eaten items like pickles and chips.

The order of serving is different for different communities. I am sticking to what I have seen all my life.

We start off with the payasam first.  Its served on the right hand corner. It is followed by kichadi, pachadi, avial, thoran and other side dishes. Slowly the top half of the leaf is filled with different side dishes from right to left.

Top left is for pickles and deep fries (upperis). A pappadam and a banana is a must.

Some communities start off with salt. And then the pickles and then slowly fill the leaf from left to right.

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Though the order of serving may be different in different places, in the end it looks more or less the same. At the end of serving, the leaf will have

  • Top half of the leaf, from right to left, the side dishes
  • Top half left hand corner will have pickles, chips/fries and salt
  • Bottom half is for rice and sambar varieties.
  • Bottom left is for banana, pappadam

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The side dishes for a Sadya are:

For Onam, you have 3 types (in some places 4 types) of pickles, 3 types payasam and three types of upperi (deep-fried items like chips).

Pickles are usually:

  • Wild lemon pickle (Vaduka puli achar)
  • Puli Inji or Inji Curry (Fried Ginger pickle) –This is a must
  • Mango/Lemon/Gooseberry (anything)

For payasam, you will have a milk based and a jaggery based one. The third/fourth can be any one of your choice. In my place, we usually make only one payasam :D.

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Once the side dishes are all served they bring out the rice. First a bit of dal/parippu is served and then rice is served. A teaspoon of melted ghee is poured on top.

Once the dal course is over, sambar is brought in. After sambar, some people serve payasam, though for us, its time for Rasam. After rasam, there is an optional round of Pulissery or Kalan. It is followed by Payasam. And the moru.

After sambar (and sometimes after rasam round too), the side dishes are brought out to be served again.

These (sambar, rasam, dal etc) are mixed with rice and savored with the side dishes served on top half of the leaf.

So, in short, the sequence of serving for the gravy dishes for rice is :

  • Dal is served, with ghee
  • Sambar
  • Rasam
  • Pulissery/Kalan
  • Payasam
  • Curd/Buttermilk

Though its great to eat a sadya outside, for Onam when you make these at home (and remember that some families make it for all three days of Onam), the level of satisfaction is just immeasurable :-)

Note: Please keep in mind that I am not an authority on the subject. I am sharing what I know and as I mentioned this is something that changes from place to place. So if its different from how you do it, please share  :-) 

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Logo courtesy : Preeti

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “How to Serve a Sadya – Sadya Recipes

  1. wow such an lovely post and delicious spread makes me hungry dear :)

  2. Great post! Your ‘elai chapadu’ looks lovely!
    Reminds me of those long ago days when I wearing my jarigai ‘pattupavadai’ accompanied my PeriAmma in Matunga to ‘kalyaanams & other family functions’ & I recall having to sit on the floor in front of the ‘vazhai elai’ & eat.
    It used to be fun but eating ‘payasam’ was a task near impossible & so my kindest of PeriAmma would request a ‘kinnam’ or Kutti tumbler for me to drink with ease.
    How life has changed with Time passing by!!!
    But memories live on in the manasu & mind’s eye!
    Thanks for bringing back those happy memories!

  3. Loved reading ur post, everything need to be served one after another, wat a wonderful spread, mindblowing..

  4. sizzlingtastebuds

    Lovely informative post there ! In iyengar communities, the order is more or less the same with a few modifications here n there… Variety rice or kalanda saadam is prominent in the latter.

  5. beautiful rajani ! i like the last picture pookolam amazing!

  6. Now you tempting me very badly Rajani, that’s one beautiful post..thank you..:)

  7. Lovely to read about the how to serve for sadya. I am remembering all the functions I attended…

  8. so informative. love the details you give

  9. Love the flower decor and food platter. awesome

  10. Sandhya Karandikar

    What a wonderful post. It is sad that these traditions are getting lost. Your Banana Leaf looks so appetising. In Maharashtra too similar tradition, but we serve with the leave being vertically kept. The narrow end is away from you.

  11. PJ

    Beautiful pic and nice write up.We too have the designated spots for each item on the leaf.Sadly many don’t know this or this style of serving on a leaf is disappearing fast.

  12. What a lovely post. Thank you so much for the virtual treat and the amazing write up.

  13. Wow ! I just imagined the whole virtual treat in your post. Great …

  14. That is a lovely, informative post there. And also loved the first image.

  15. Beautiful post! It is important to serve the dishes right as it is to cook them..Loved reading it :)

  16. Lovely post…some day I wish i could taste the whole spread!!!

  17. Well you you what goes where how the leaf is laid etc. We have this positioning but sadly I do not know. Not sadly luckily else I will be the one serving in a wedding. I do not know hot I get chosen for all these tasks.

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