Payasam or kheer is served as dessert all over India. It has a stupendous variety with each region giving it a local flavour and specializing in those ingredients that are peculiar to their region. Some like the rice kheer is common everywhere and some are unique. To the sweet toothed these lip smacking sweet treats are a delight.
Payasams are an essential item on the menu of all Kerala festivities. Delicious and sweet it gives a sense of completeness to the meal like no other can. Traditionally, payasam was made in the ‘uruli’ which is a round vessel made of clay, copper, bronze or of the more popularly found bellmetal. It has ears on either side making it easy to hold and its round shape makes it easy to stir, much like the wok used by the chinese.
The traditional payasams are Paalpayasam and Paalada made of milk and Pradhamans of ada, banana, daliya (broken wheat), dals and jackfruit which are jaggery based but all that is changing. New and fanciful payasams are rubbing shoulders with the traditional ones. Today’s payasams may be with fruit such as pineapple, apple, mixed fruits (apples,mangoes, bananas, etc.) dates, figs or tender coconut. Even rambutan payasam has been successfully experimented with. And what can one say about the delicious Aloevera payasam with condensed milk?!
Payasam adventurists have also introduced vegetables into the payasam field. Yam, sweet potato, carrot, tapioca, beetroot and many more are the variants of the ever accommodating payasam. These usually are made in coconut milk and sweetened with jaggery.
Garnishing too has had a makeover. It is no longer just the cashew- kishmish fried in ghee or the browned coconut bits. Now, badam slivers, pista crushed and other dry fruits such as figs and dates chopped are used aplenty along with saffron strands giving the payasam a whole new twist.
Making payasam requires time and patience. It requires constant stirring and attention. The slightest error could leave the milk burnt and ruin the payasam totally. Hence all cooking is best done over a slow but steady flame. Dals and rice must be well cooked and soft before the sugar is added else they will turn hard and lumpy. With effort and imagination every payasam can be a connoisseur’s delight.
The market for easy to make food products is ever growing. Everywhere instant payasams are piled up on the shelves for the busy and in a hurry generation. They don’t require too much time or talent and turn out pretty good too.
P.S. An easy, quick- to- do payasam for pioneers in the kitchen
Pressure Cooker Payasam
Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 20mins
¾ cup sugar
3 tbs raw rice
Wash and soak rice for 5 mins. Put all ingredients but the ghee into a pressure cooker along with the soaked rice. Place the lid with the whistle and close. After the first whistle, lower the flame and keep for 15 more minutes. Turn off flame and allow cooker to cool. Open the lid and stir the light brown coloured, delicious payasam. Now add the spoonful of ghee. If you wish to thicken the consistency, then return to flame and stir constantly for another 5 minutes. This payasam has a light caramel flavour and is best eaten without the routine flavouring of cardamom or saffron. It does not require cashews or raisins too. Quick and easy you will love this payasam as it reminds you of Kulfi!!