Happy Onam: No athapookalam competition, elaborate sadhya for Keralites in Delhi-NCR
Given the Covid-19 crisis, the Delhi Malayalee Association has decided to take the virtual route to celebrate the harvest festival, this year.Updated: Aug 29, 2020, 20:36 IST
Come Onam and we immediately visualise vibrant rangolis made with fresh fragrant flowers, ethnic, festive attires largely in the shades of white and golden, cultural performances to the rhythmic beats of traditional instruments, and a whole lot of festive cheer. But in a world struck by a pandemic, festivities, as in the case of most other occasions, are subdued.
Onam is celebrated to commemorate King Mahabali, who is said to visit Kerala during this time. And every year, the Delhi Malayalee Association (DMA), a socio-cultural organisation that brings Keralites across Delhi-NCR together under one roof, has elaborate plans to ring in this harvest festival. Celebrations last for nearly three months, interspersed with cultural and religious activities. However, this time around, gatherings have been restricted to people’s homes, the stage to perform is now a webinar, and the applause that reverberates through an auditorium will now take a digital turn.
“Every year, on Onam, we conduct lavish celebrations on a large scale at an auditorium or stadium in the Capital. A week before Onam, we organise athapookalam (rangoli) competitions, in which several people across the National Capital Region participate with gusto. This year, we didn’t feel it was right to hold such a large celebration, as the world is in a crisis. Having said that, we will hold a small programme online on August 30 evening, wherein short performances will take place,” says C Chandran, general secretary, DMA, who affirms that although we are going through tough times, we cannot let it overcome festive spirit. “This is being done more to boost the morale of people, rather than as a means of celebration,” he adds.
Every year, children who excel at academics are felicitated as part of celebrations. The association will continue with this tradition this year as well, only this time, it will be an online affair. “We should not disappoint the kids,” insists Chandran.
The association is also getting together to help those in need, both financially and otherwise. “We are all away from home (Kerala), but the reason we are continuing this is because we should not forget out culture. We need to teach our younger generations all about our culture and traditions, so we are seeing this (online celebration) as an opportunity to help our future generations stay rooted,” he adds.
And how can celebrations be complete without a quintessential feast or an Onam Sadhya, comprising a range of delectable dishes – both sweets and savories – that are a treat to the eyes and the palate. So, if you are also planning to celebrate at home, here are some lip-smacking recipes you could try out to revel in festivities.
To make this sweet and sour chutney-like culinary treat, you will need ½ cup ginger (finely chopped), 3tsp tamarind paste or 250g tamarind pulp, 100g green chilli (finely chopped), ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp red chilli powder, ½ tsp mustard seeds, 5 small onions (finely chopped; optional), 2-3 dry red chillies (broken), ¼ cup jaggery, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 3tbsp coconut oil,1½ cups water, salt to taste
Method: Soak the tamarind in a cup of hot water for about 10-15 minutes. Then, squeeze the tamarind to extract the juice and filter it to get the extract. Else, dilute the tamarind paste in water. Set aside. Heat coconut oil in a kadai and fry the ginger until it’s brown. Remove the fried ginger, place it on a tissue paper and keep it aside to remove the oil from it. Grind the fried ginger to get it finely crushed.
Next, take a kadai or an earthen pot (manchatti), pour the tamarind juice, add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder and combine well. Bring it to a boil, reduce the flame to low and cook for 10 minutes, so that the gravy gets thick. Add one cup of hot water with jaggery and mix well, filter it and keep that aside.
Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add chopped onions, dry red chilli, chopped green chilli and curry leaves and saute till it’s brown in colour. Pour this onto the cooked mixture. Add the crushed ginger and jaggery water, reduce the flame and allow the mixture to boil until it is thick, pulpy and reduced by half. Cool and transfer into a sterilised jar or bottle and leave it to settle for an hour or so. Your dish is ready!
A stir fry of sorts, this is an essential part of a sadhya. For this, you will need 1tbsp coconut oil, ½ tsp mustard seeds, ½ tsp cumin seeds, 6-7 pearls of sambar onions or shallots, 3-4 small or medium-sized garlic cloves (finely chopped), 1 green chilli (chopped), 10-11 curry leaves, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, 250g french beans, ½ cup grated fresh coconut, 1/3 cup water or as required
Method: Rinse 250g of beans a couple of times and drain all the water. Discard the ends of the beans and finely chop. Next, heat coconut oil in a heavy pan or kadai. Add mustard seeds, and when it begins to crackle, add cumin seeds and let them crackle. Next, add in the sambar onions or shallots which have been chopped. You can even use finely chopped onions instead. Mix well and sauté onions on a low flame, till they turn translucent. To this, add finely chopped garlic, green chilli, curry leaves, followed by turmeric powder and mix well.
Now, add the finely chopped beans and stir. Add ½cup fresh grated coconut, season with salt as per taste and mix it well. Sprinkle about four tablespoons of water first and stir. Cover and cook the thoran on a low flame. Check after 3-4 minutes. If water has dried up, sprinkle some more water. Mix well and continue to cover and cook. Add water in parts, as and when required. Cook till the beans are completely cooked. If there is any water in the pan, cook without the lid till the water evaporates.
Serve beans thoran with some steamed rice or a vegetable side dish. If you want, you can also garnish with some coriander leaves.
Recipes by home chef Suja Rajendran
For this traditional sweet dish, you will need ½ cup moong dal (soaked and drained), ghee, 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk, ¾ cup jaggery, a pinch of salt, 1tsp cardamom powder, ¼ cup cashew nuts
Method: Heat jaggery in a pan along with 2 tablespoons of water and let the jaggery melt. Once it melts completely, strain it and keep warm till used. Next, heat ghee in a pot, roast the moong dal until it slightly changes in colour and becomes aromatic. Now, add water and coconut milk and mix. Keep stirring the dal and let it cook completely. Once done, mash it using the back side of a ladle. Lower the flame and pour in the prepared jaggery syrup. Whisk continuously while pouring. Bring this mixture to a boil. Then, add in salt and cardamom powder and mix well. Let it cook for 5 minutes more, and turn off the flame.
Add ghee and cover with a lid. Let it rest for 5-7 minutes. Mix and serve warm, garnished with roasted cashew nuts.
Recipe by chef Ranveer Brar
Author tweets @srinidhi_gk