If you told the Travancore pachadi sitting pretty on the large plantain leaf readied for a scrumptious Onasadya, that some fish fry is to occupy the next vacant space, it would shudder. That's not the case with the pachadi from Malabar, and for that matter, even the inji curry, avial or thoran from the land; they would all graciously make space for the delectable fish fry.
While Onam still remains the most awaited festival of the year in Kerala, there isn't just one kind of Onam. For decades, the harvest festival has been celebrated with much aplomb. While the spread comprises vegetarian dishes, with the traditional naalucurry (the four inevitables) of pulissery, erissery, olan and mezhukkupiratty with other delicacies, in the northern districts, the diet might see a few significant changes.
“Fish fry and/or some meat curry usually does its rounds during Onam in Malabar,” says Indu, a journalist from Kannur. While it has to be agreed that Onam is widely popularized as a vegetarian fare, most of the families in Malabar pull in a little of their local favourites—the fish and the meat. Onam, hence, is also bound by geography. While it's true that there's a seafood bounty during the season, thanks to the rains, it's mostly only in the northern districts that this practice prevails.
“We don't have non-vegetarian dishes on Thiruvonam, although on Uthradam(the day before Onam) and Avittom(the day that succeeds Onam) we prepare meat dishes at home,” says Akhil, from Kozhikode.
While one can hold debates on the evolution of this inclusion, a carbon dating of food practises of sorts to determine whether it's an age-old practice, (since Kerala as a coastal land always had copious seafood) or a newfangled one, netizens of Malabar maintain that seldom have their celebrations excluded the fish and meat.
One another treat you're in for, if you feast in Malabar is the pappadam and pazham delicacy. Steam-cooked ripe nendran banana mashed and topped with crushed pappadam makes for a grand finale to the traditional sadya. Add some ghee and sugar to it, and it's divine!