By Rajeev Mokashi
The Orchid’s grand celebration of Vishu Sadhya, hosted at South of Vindhyas (SOV) and meticulously crafted by Executive Chef Bala, is reflected in the blossoming spread journeying the four states of India. Literally. The entrance was decked with banana stems at strategic locations. The colourful rangoli art on the floor pathway looked grand, adding festivity and a touch of tradition. A rustic-looking boat was filled and decorated with authentic spices from the south.
The ambience inside was equally warm and winsome, with the staff in elegant all-traditional attire welcoming guests. Live Indian instrumental music played in the background, which added the much-needed glam and gave the feel of entering any south Indian temple during festive fervour. Nothing compares to the rich tradition of celebrating the abundant joys of the harvesting season as well as togetherness.
Traditionally, sadhya consists of a minimum of 24 to a maximum of 28 items, but at The Orchid, they broke all barriers to extend it to 56 items. The buffet-style spread was a feast for the eye and stomach. As believed in Indian culture, based on Ayurvedic science, our hands and feet are the conduits of the five elements present in the earth. Each finger represents one of the five elements. The thumb is agni (fire), the forefinger is vayu (air), the centre finger is akash (ether), the ring finger is prithvi (earth), and the little finger is jal (water), which helps in swallowing the food.
Barely had we made ourselves comfortable, when a refreshing glass of Kachiya Moru (spiced buttermilk) was served, followed by piping hot Thakkali Rasam, Medu/Dal Vadai, and coconut chutney. This got us warmed up for our next leg of feasting. Heading to the buffet counter, neatly laid banana leaves on plates with bowls were handed out, and we couldn’t wait to try our hands on the grand offering.
Our first stop was at the Nurunga/Snacks counter. We tried the Chakka Upperi, Nendrankai Upperi, Vazhakkai Sarkkara Upperi, Achappam, Unniyappam, Uttapams, Pappadams/Kondattams, and a couple more. The variety of chips and condiments was quite extraordinary. Chammanthi (chutney) came in various flavours, from coconut to mango to coriander to tomato to garlic. It was very flavorful.
Before heading back to our table, we filled our plates with a variety of Pachadi, a sour curry made of yoghurt with varieties of veggies like Vendakkai, Pavakkai, Urulai, Vellari, and carrot; Kose Thoran, a dish of sauteed vegetables; Kizhangu stew; and Khichadi. The burst of flavour and spices in each preparation stood out, and it all tasted fantastic. All portions, which were self-served, were in small quantity, bearing in mind the huge choices of delicacies we had to try and savour a bit of everything. We absolutely relished the bean thoran and mezhukkupuratti.
After wolfing down the first round, we headed back to the station to refill with the choiciest side dishes and curries from Ulli Theeyal: A tangy curry cooked with pearl onions, coconut oil, jaggery, curry leaves, and mustard. Aviyal: A thrilling and dense mixture of cooked vegetables mixed with coconut and yoghurt mix, mildly spiced and seasoned to perfection. Olan: A creamy dish cooked with cow peas and pumpkin and enriched with coconut milk to make Kootu curry. Kalan: A preparation with raw plantains that has a slightly thick and dry texture and a mildly sour and spicy taste.
Adding to our already overflowing plate, we grab a spoonful of lemon sevai, coconut sevai, pulissery, and pumpkin erissery. As we settle down, we request a serving of hot, crispy dosa to go with the curries and sides. The whole preparation, with its intense flavour, added a rich depth to the intriguing curry. The line-up created an explosion of flavours spanning the spectrum from mildly spicy and sour to tangy, sweet, and tart.
Nearing the final lap of the Sadhya-thon, the dessert counter brimmed with ten varieties of payasam and pradhamam, from Pal payasam to Nei payasam to Ada pradhamam to Kadala pradhamam, Nethrapazham pradhamam, Chakka pradhamam, Parippu payasam, and Godhumai payasam. Both the payasams and pradhamams had a delectable concoction of coconut milk, jaggery, and cardamom that added grandeur to a classic sadhya. Spoilt with choice, we dug into the dessert, which proved to be a real triumph of a treat.
Overall, the entire sadhya execution by Executive Chef Bala, in addition to being nostalgic, was avant-garde. Speaking of which, several signature dishes stood out in their unfettered glory, like Parippu payasam, Pulissery, Ulli Theyal, Akkaravadissa, and more. The Vishu Sadhya was a journey in itself, straddling all four states. We at TheGlitz couldn’t agree more.