Onam is the biggest and the most important festival of the state of Kerala. It is a harvest festival and is celebrated with joy and enthusiasm all over the state by people of all communities. According to a popular legend, the festival is celebrated to welcome King Mahabali, whose spirit is said to visit Kerala at the time of Onam.

Onam is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Chingam, the first month of Malayalam Calendar (Kollavarsham). This corresponds with the month of August-September according to Gregorian Calendar.

Carnival of Onam lasts from four to ten days. First day, Atham, and tenth day, Thiruonam are most important of all. Popularity and presentation of rich culture of the state during the carnival made Onam the National Festival of Kerala in 1961. Elaborate feasts, folk songs, elegant dances, energetic games, elephants, boats and flowers all are a part of the dynamic festival called Onam.

(via http://www.onamfestival.org/what-is-onam.html)

In celebration of Onam, here are a couple of traditional recipes. Enjoy!

Sambar Recipe:

Preparation Time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time: 30  minutes
Serves: 4-6


  • Mixed vegetables:  1 ½ cup mixed veggies (cut into medium sized pieces)

You can use a variety of veggies such as:

  • Drumsticks (moringa oleifera): 1 (cut lengthwise)
  • Okra: 5-6 (cut into 2” pieces)
  • Potatoes: 1 (cubed)
  • Tomato: 1 (chopped)
  • Shallots: handful, cut into halves
  • Green chili: 2-3 (slit, lengthwise)
  • Yellow pigeon peas/Toor Dal: 1 cup
  • Tamarind : (soaked in half a cup of hot water for 10 minutes)
  • Asafoetida powder: ½ tsp
  • Coriander/Cilantro leaves: 1 sprig
  • Turmeric: ¼ tsp
  • Salt to taste

For Tempering:

  • Mustard seeds: 1tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds: 2 pinches
  • Curry leaves: 1 sprig
  • Coriander powder: 2 tsp
  • Red chili powder: 1 tsp
  • Sambar powder: 3 tsp
  • Coconut oil (or any cooking oil): 1 tbsp


  1. Soak tamarind in warm water for some time, squeeze and take extract from it.  Keep aside
  2. Pressure cook toor dal with water, turmeric powder and salt for 4-5 whistles.
  3. After the pressure settles, open the cooker and add vegetables that are slow to cook such as potatoes and drumstick.
  4. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, add 1 tbsp of coconut oil and the chopped okra, sauté, add a handful of chopped shallots and sauté until transparent, followed by tomatoes.  Reduce flame to medium, cover and cook for a couple minutes.  Remove from heat.
  5. Add tamarind juice to cooked dal vegetable mixture, stir and simmer on low flame for a few minutes.  Add more salt if needed.
  6. Once the vegetables are cooked and mixed well, add the shallots, okra, and tomatoes mixture and bring to a boil.
  7. Sprinkle asafoetida powder and simmer for a minute.  Remove from flame.
  8. Heat oil in a pan/wok, add the mustard seeds, allow them to splutter, add the red chillies and half of the curry leaves and fry for a minute.
  9. Mix in the sambar powder, coriander powder, and chilly powder and sauté for a couple minutes on low flame.
  10.   Add the veggies to the pan/wok and mix well for a few minutes.  Remove from flame and add ¼ tsp. of coconut oil and chopped coriander leaves, remaining curry leaves and keep covered until ready to serve, allowing the flavor to set.
  11. Serve with rice idili, or dosa and enjoy!!


 Payasam Recipe:

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • Vermicelli Noodles – 1/2 cup
  • Whole milk – 5 cups
  • Sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Cashews – 8 – 10
  • Raisins – 8 – 10 (Optional)
  • Cardamom powder – 2 pinches or to taste
  • Ghee – 1 tbsp


1. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the raisins till plump. Drain on to a paper towel. Fry cashews until light brown, drain and keep aside. Now add vermicelli stir until they are a light golden color. (About 3 – 4 minutes at medium heat.) Remove the pan and set aside. If you are using toasted vermicelli, just add them to the skillet and stir for a few seconds so as to coat it with ghee.

2. Meanwhile bring the milk to a boil in a wide, thick-bottomed pan at medium heat stirring occasionally so the milk won’t stick to the bottom. Bring down the flame and heat for a few more minutes. Add the fried vermicelli. Mix well. Cook at medium low heat for about 10 – 12 minutes, continue to stir. Add sugar. Mix well and continue to cook for another 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vermicelli turns soft and the payasam begins to thicken. If it is very thick, you can add a cup of milk and heat for a few more minutes. Switch off. Add the cardamom powder and stir well. Garnish with fried cashew nuts and raisins. Serve warm or chilled.

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