Payasam! The word that holds a significant value in every proud Malayali’s diet. It is needless to mention that being a true Keralite it will always have a special place in my heart and diet too. For us, any auspicious occasion calls for a delicious variety of payasam. So, what is this Payasam? I think most of you are familiar with this Kerala dessert because of the popularity of Kerala cuisine but I still think I should do my bit in enlightening the non-Keralites about our cuisine. So, here we go..
Payasam is known as pudding or something that belongs to the pudding family to the rest of the world. But to me, payasam has got its own identity and you cannot just put it under any random category. It comes in a wide variety in terms of ingredients. Traditionally, they are made of either milk or coconut milk with sugar and jaggery as sweetening agents according to the preparation. Most of them have a runny consistency although the coconut milk ones tend to get a little thicker as it cools down. Rice, lentils, fruits, broken wheat, semolina, sago, etc. are a few of the base ingredients usually used for payasam.
Now today, it was my brother’s birthday and I happened to be at home for holidays. And there is an unspoken rule at home that if I am home, I have to make something special if the day calls for it. According to our good old Kerala traditions, be it birthdays, weddings or any celebratory occasion, we make payasam instead of cutting cakes although nowadays we do both. Since I was tired of baking a whole lot during the Christmas and New Years’ time I was in no mood to bake again this soon. So I decided to make a payasam which is easy & yummy.
Neypayasam it is! It means Ghee payasam because of the amount of ghee the traditional recipe calls for. But personally, I have felt that the irresistible smell of ghee & jaggery getting slow cooked together is the reason why it is called Neypayasam. It’s guaranteed that you will not get this kind of alluring smell from any other payasam for sure. My whole house smelled divine while I was making Neypayasam, and this divinity in its smell could be one of the reasons why it is given as a prasadam (divine offering) in South Indian temples.
This payasam has a thick pudding consistency and is supposed to be eaten in small portions. And the best part is, it is super easy to make at home. So, why wait any longer? Let’s see how to get this done.
Broken Red Rice (Payasam Rice) – 1 Cup
Dark Jaggery – Shaved 1.5 Cups (add more if you have a sweet tooth)
Water – 1/3 Cup to ½ Cup
Ghee – ¼ Cup + 2 tbsp.
Coconut Bits – ¼ Cup
Black Raisins – 1 tbsp.
Kalkandam / Rock Sugar – Crushed 1 tbsp.
Cardamom Powder – 1 tsp
- Wash the rice and cook it with enough water and keep aside. (I cooked it in a pressure cooker)
- In a saucepan, boil the water and jaggery together until the jaggery is fully dissolved in the water. Strain to filter any impurities in the jaggery and keep aside.
- Heat a heavy bottomed large pan (I used Uruli – the traditional heavy brass vessel for making payasam) with 2 tbsp. of ghee in it.
- Sauté the coconut bits in the ghee till it leaves all its moisture and turns golden brown. Remove the bits from the ghee and keep aside.
- Sauté the raisins in the ghee and keep aside.
- To the remaining ghee in the pan carefully add the strained jaggery water solution and simmer until it becomes slightly sticky.
- To this add the cooked rice and keep stirring till the rice soaks up well in the jaggery.
- Add the rest of the ghee and keep stirring till the payasam leaves the sides of the vessel and reaches a sticky & saucy consistency.
- Switch off the flame and add the coconut bits, raisins, rock sugar and cardamom powder and mix it up well.
- While serving you can add small banana pieces to it when it is still warm which will add more flavour to the payasam.