The centerpiece of sadya is navara, a medicinal rice type, that is one of the native genetic resources of Kerala and famed for its use in Ayurveda. Navara is used as a nutritional rice and health food and is said to be therapeutic for conditions such as arthritis, paralysis, ulcers, urinary tract infections, neuralgic and neurological disorders.
For a novitiate to Kerala cuisine, the food does not stop coming, and the helpings are as much as you can ingest. Most people stop at the second helping and react in surprise when waiters with buckets of curry offer to ladle more on the leaf-plate.
Foreigners, after their initial cultural reservations about eating with their hands, awkwardly slurp and lap up the food, any messiness be damned. As a concession to non-vegetarians, karimeen or pearl spot, the local fish, is served fried or in curry form.
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Since the "experience" requires some preparation, those guests who want to partake of it need to intimate the chef in advance and tables are laid out separately in the restaurant for those who are eating on the banana leaf.
A typical sadya menu -
Parippu Curry (Simmered lentils enhanced with ghee)
Pachadi (Preserved cucumber in Yoghurt)
Inchi Puli (An emulsion of tamarind, jaggery and ginger)
Kichadi (Coconut enriched gravy with pineapple)
Erissery (Mashed Pumpkins and red beans in coconut)
Kaalan (Raw banana cooked in mildly spiced coarse coconut)
Olan (White pumpkin simmered with beans in coconut milk)
Avial (Ethnic vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut and yoghurt)
Thoran (Any local vegetable cooked dry with coarsely ground coconut)
Kootu Curry (Assortment of vegetables and spices)
Sambar (Stew of lentil and vegetables)
Pulissery (Tempered yoghurt with turmeric with curry leaf infusion)
Pachamoru (Spiced butter milk)
Banana Payasam (Dessert with jaggery, coconut milk flavored with cardamom)
Kerala Chicken Roast
Kerala Fried Prawns
Kerala Vegetable Stew
Meen Moilee with Steamed Rice