It’s that point of the 12 months to go bananas over the banana. For, even when the pièce de résistance of the competition is the Onasadya and the payasams, there’s one ingredient that goes into nearly half of the 25-odd dishes within the unfold — the banana.
From begin to end, the sadya isn’t the identical with out this multifaceted fruit, which additionally masquerades as a vegetable in a few of the dishes. Ripe, fried, boiled, cooked, mashed, roasted… the versatile banana is omnipresent by means of the 12 months in Kerala, however particularly throughout Onam.
An Onam particular in north Kerala is ‘pazham-pappadam kuzhachathu’ (mashed banana and pappadam), says TPK Namboothiri, a meals blogger and native of Kannur. The Onasadya begins with this delicacy in Kannur. One other Kannur native, Indira Jayadas says that in her dwelling, the ripe fruit, ideally the Mysore selection, is minimize into very small items. Garnished with crushed pappadam, ghee and sugar, it’s combined effectively and eaten earlier than the sadya. She rues that the custom is slowly going out of form although.
Starring from left to proper…
What’s Onam with out golden, crunchy banana chips? Minimize into 4 or as coin-shaped, these wafers are a should together with sharkkaravaratti, which is jaggery-coated, sturdy slices of banana, all of that are made with the unripe nendran.
Shifting on to the curries, unripe ones are used to make a wide range of dishes, a should on the ela (banana leaf). It’s among the many medley of greens that make up the avial. Whereas the mildly-spiced erissery has uncooked plantain and elephant foot yam (chena), within the koottu curry, it goes with chena and Bengal gram. One other plantain-chena combo is the yoghurt-based kaalan. Pulissery, its thinner model, has ripe banana.
After all, there are regional variations to boost the sadya. “We don’t use raw bananas in our avial. At the same time, it is unavoidable in koottu curry and kaalan. Also, in our pulissery and pachadi, we use ripe banana and pineapple. Mezhukkuvaratti has elephant yam and raw banana,” explains Mahavedan Iyer, managing director of Vinayaka Caterers, Kochi. Nonetheless, Raj Kalesh, foodie and cookery present host, says that though kaalan is normally ready with chena and uncooked plantain, ripe banana can be utilized in sure households. “This makes the dish slightly sweet. They call it Onakkaalan,” says Raj. Famend chef Pazhayidom Mohanan Namboothiry provides: “We use all parts of the plantain plant and not just the banana for a sadya. The thoran is made with kudappan (banana inflorescence) and green gram or with banana stem (pindi) of the nendran variety.”
Pazham pradhaman has pleasure of place among the many payasams. Nonetheless, it’s fairly a laborious course of to make the dessert, admit the cooks because the ripening course of itself takes time. “Bunches of nenthran are stored within the pathayam (wood field or retailer the place grain is saved) for 3 days the place they’re fastidiously smoked. Then the peel of the fruit turns into barely crimson in color. After that, they’re left within the open for an additional three days. By that point, the peel turns black and they’re able to be cooked for the pradhaman. Mashed bananas are stirred within the ghee for a number of hours earlier than it’s cooked with coconut milk,” explains Pazhayidom.
Mahadevan says they’ve a particular field to ripen the bananas, which normally takes two to 3 weeks. “Ripe bananas are boiled in hot water. After adding jaggery syrup, we blend it in a mixer. It is then stirred in ghee for at least six hours till it gets the consistency of halwa. We make pradhaman using this as and when needed,” Mahadevan explains. Based on Indira, they add tiny balls of rice flour to bananas when they’re being cooked in coconut milk.
And the way about that fruit, the cherupazham, positioned on the underside left of the leaf? Whereas some get pleasure from having the fruit as such, many gourmets combine it with the pradhaman. “In our place, we prefer to have cherupayar (green gram) payasam with cherupazham,” Indira provides.
IN THE MARKET
Though the banana shouldn’t be a seasonal fruit, many farmers in Kerala domesticate it for the Onam season that falls within the months of August or September. “We plant them by November-December so that they are ready by the Malayalam month of Chingam, when Onam is celebrated. Although it is grown in plenty across the State, it arrives in bulk from Tamil Nadu during the season. In spite of the concerns about banned pesticides, the fruit finds a market here because the produce is cheaper when compared to the locally-grown variety,” says N Sreekumar, president of the All Kerala Banana Farmers Affiliation.
- Pazhayidom reminisces about pazham nurukku, which was once “the breakfast in many upper-class families” on the day of Thiruvonam. “Nendran is cut into medium-sized pieces and steam-cooked. It is eaten with jaggery syrup and pappadam,” he says.
- Even the nurukku has its variants. Some relish it with scraped coconut and use honey as a substitute of jaggery; in some locations the bananas are caramelised as a substitute of getting it steam-cooked. An old-timer remembers that it was “a quick-fix breakfast” in households on Thiruvonam for the reason that girls had their arms full with preparations for the sadya.
Kulasekharam, Karingal, Marthandam, Theni, Kambam, Mettupalayam, Pollachi, Nagercoil, Coimbatore and Thirunelveli are a few of the locations in Tamil Nadu that provide Kerala with the fruit. “Over 30 tonnes of banana come to the market during Onam,” says Anilkumar, a wholesale dealer at Manacaud banana market in Thiruvananthapruam.
The ‘naadan’ selection is meant to be one of the best to make chips and sharkkaravaratti, says S Rajarajaman, accomplice of VC Chips New in Thiruvananthapuram. “Four nendran varieties are available in the market — Mettupalayam, Wayanad, ‘Paandikkaya’ and ‘naadan’. We get bulk orders from banks and jewellery shops for half-kilo and quarter-kilo packets, to be distributed among their clients,” he says.
Though four-cut chips are served in sadya, the round-variety has extra takers, says A Kannan of Kannan’s Chips within the capital metropolis, which has been in enterprise for the reason that 1970s. “We sell 60-70 kilograms of chips daily during Onam, whereas it is 20-25 kilograms on other days. Chips made with ripe bananas too are sought-after these days,” he provides.
Would you shell out ₹3,500 for a banana bunch? And even ₹1,000? There are various who wouldn’t thoughts whether it is for the ‘kazhchakkula’, which is obtainable to the presiding deity of Sree Krishna Temple Guruvayur. It’s the Chengalikodan banana, named after its homeland, Chengazhikode village in Thrissur district. The nendran selection bagged the Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2015.
Now it’s grown in several elements of Thrissur. “It is the sultan among bananas. The golden-coloured bananas with red patches are a sight to behold and people don’t mind paying the amount we quote for a bunch,” says Nasar Mankara, who has been cultivating the variability for a decade in Wadakkanchery. Dharmarajan S, one other farmer, provides that Chengalikodan bananas are tastier than another nendran selection.
“Even after it turns yellow, it takes a few days more for the banana to ripen perfectly,” he says. Because the selection is liable to pest assaults, farmers take nice care.
The bunches are provided on the temple from Three am on Uthradam, the eve of Thiruvonam, until 11 am. “After that, the bananas are auctioned on the temple premises itself,” Dharmajan provides.