How this PEI caterer cooks his first Indian harvest feast in person

A PEI family business. goes to great lengths to prepare a feast of over 25 dishes as part of an annual Indian harvest festival called Onam.

The 10-day festival runs from August 30 to September 8 this year and marks the first month of the calendar year for the Malayali people, an ethnolinguistic group from Kerala, India.

Each day of the festival has its own significance, with an elaborate assortment of celebrations and events ranging from dance performances to competitive games.

An essential part of the festival is called Onam Sadhya, a traditional multi-course meal served on a bed of banana leaves and meant to be eaten by hand.

That’s what 4S Catering in Charlottetown decided to prepare for Islanders. The caterer, known to many from his stall at the Charlottetown Farmers’ Market, will host the event in person for the first time at the Jack Blanchard Family Center on Tuesday.

« It’s basically a harvest collection, and really celebrating family ties and community, and sharing and cooking meals together and just eating and having a good time, » said Sandra Sunil, director of the catering business. .

Sunil runs the business with his mother Sheena Mathew, father Sunil Daniel and brother Samel Sunil.

She said they started hosting the feast last year, but opted to deliver the food via a take-out option due to COVID-19 restrictions.

All dishes served at Onam Sadhya are vegetarian, consisting of several different curries, vegetables and fruits. (Mikee Mutuc/CBC)

After receiving « overwhelming support » with more than 50 orders placed, the company decided to continue Onam Sadhya this year with an in-person dinner.

As people enter the community center, they can expect cultural music to play in the background throughout the event.

The family expects to serve approximately 100 to 150 people. Sunil said the company already has 30 people signed up, plus others they know who are waiting to book until they get a final count of relatives and friends interested in joining.

« We’re super excited to host it and get everyone together and really enjoy the time, » she said.

Meal preparation

All dishes served for Onam Sadhya will be vegetarian, more than 25 in all.

» That you are [a] child or whether you are an adult – you can really have and find something to like in the range of dishes,” Sunil said.

The family of four will rely on each other and a small number of team members to cook enough food for the expected number of guests, but she said the business has accommodated even larger crowds , so it’s no surprise to them.

Mathew said it was hard to find banana leaves to use on the tables for the feast, so they resorted to cutting large pieces of green paper to recreate the experience for their guests.

Stocking the rest of their grocery list was made easy with Indian grocers on the island as well as cities like Moncton, Halifax and Toronto. They also ordered online to get products straight from India, some of which most islanders wouldn’t recognize.

« Drumstick, we don’t use that often here. It’s a green vegetable, » Mathew said. « And cucumber, different types of cucumber. And yam, mostly people don’t use it here. Okra. Yeah, those kind of vegetables we use a lot here.

« I’m excited. So that’s the way to, you know, show the culture to everybody. So we’re really excited to show you that…We want to get everybody involved. »

The event will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. More information on how to register can be found on the 4S Catering Facebook page.


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