Onam is an emotion. It translates into flowers, food, families, clothes, swings, songs, films, nostalgia, vacations, and more. A festival celebrated by every Malayali.
For Onam 2021, Ajish Jayachandran, CEO of tastre.com, and Smitha Prasad, director, creative and corporate communications of Citrine Hospitality Group, decided to recreate a slice of their childhood by selling a bouquet of traditional, ethnic snacks for Onam that used to be made at every home during the festival season.
Basket of goodies
Smitha spent every Onam at their ancestral house in Edava, a picturesque seaside village in Thiruvananthapuram. “As soon as the train reached Varkala, I could see women with wicker baskets brimming with palaharam (snacks) of all kinds. There was neyyappam, kuzhalappam, madakasan, ari unda, achappam and so on. Each basket would be different depending on what the seller had decided to make that day,” recalls Smitha.
It was also the time of the year when her grandmother Pankajakshi would make large quantities of palaharam for the family get-together during Onam when their house would be brimming with conversations, laughter and the aroma of food.
So, for Onam, she decided to revive the tradition this year through their enterprise. They sought the help of a couple of senior citizens and Geethakumari to make the palaharam. Made in coconut oil, one ‘regular’ Onam palahara kutta (wicker basket) has five achappam, 10 alanga, two madakasan, three vettu cake, five each of kuzhalappam, masala murukku and ari murukku, six mundirikothu and five ari unda for ₹599. Unniyappam and neyyappam come for an additional ₹150. The ‘jumbo kutta’ has the same snacks but twice the number of each.
The snack basket was initially meant only for Thiruvananthapuram. “We have been getting requests from NRIs who want to send a basket for their parents and grandparents. Now the basket is sent all across India,” says Smitha.
She feels that a new generation of children would have no idea of the ethnic palaharam as many are used to eating packaged snacks. She hopes the Onam hamper inspires some of them to explore the traditional eats that were once a must for Onam.
The Onam palahara kutta is available till August 31.
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Taste of home
Ajish Jayachandran’s Tastre platform was meant to be a helping hand for the many home chefs who had blossomed during the lockdowns. ‘Your favourite homely recipes at your door front’ is the tagline of the online platform.
Ajish points out that the lockdown had cost people their jobs. “Some of our home cooks needed an alternative source of income and we thought such a platform would be of help to both customers and the home cooks. For Onam, we thought of an ‘Ona palahara pothi’ delivering homemade snacks for customers,” says Ajish.
Made in coconut oil and at home, each package has ethnic eats ranging from neyyappam, murukku, kuzhalappam and maavunda to banana chips and sarkaravaratti, mundirikothu and pakkavada. The packs are priced at ₹110 and ₹310. Customers are free to choose the snacks they want.
“Some home cooks charge exorbitant prices or their delivery charges can be quite high. We wanted to keep it affordable. Anywhere in Thiruvananthapuram city and its outskirts, our delivery charges are fixed at ₹40. This is to ensure that our cooks do not lose a customer because of high delivery costs,” adds Ajish.
Affordability ensures that the home cooks get a steady income on a daily basis. Ajish says they have been overwhelmed by the response of customers.
Four of their home cooks are also offering Ona sadya that costs between ₹150 to ₹450, depending on the curries and the payasams. Each sadya would be different. Sadya will be available for a week from August 20. That will also be delivered at ₹40.