Saturday, October 18, 2008

1001 Simple Payasam ( Sweet Indian Pudding)

Click the image on the left to view the cookbook. 

"Payasam" (Sanskrit 'peeyusham’ : Nectar), Kheer (Sanskrit 'Ksheera : Milk) are desserts cooked from sweetened milk. 

This cookbook lists 1000 simple payasams. 10 different bases are combined with ten different additives and ten different flavouring to produce a thousand different payasams. 

A variety of bases as listed in column 1 can be used for payasam.

Though traditionally only cow / buffalo milk is used as the base, a variety of  ‘plant milk’ is now available. Almond milk, Rice milk or Cashew milk can be easily made at home and used as a base for payasams. The most common ‘plant milk’ is coconut milk, which is used extensively in Kerala payasams.

Payasams can be flavored in various ways as listed in column 2

The additives generally used are listed in column 3.  In Kerala, we see unique additives – Jack fruit Jam ( Chakka varati) and ada, used nowhere else in India.

Ramayana records that king Dasratha, father of lord Rama, performed a large yagna (sacrificial ritual) seeking children. A deity rose from the altar and presented the king with a divine payasam. He distributed it equally to his four wives, who were then blessed with children.

Payasams / Kheer are cooked across India and Pakistan, mostly with milk. In Kerala, coconut milk is used in place of or in addition to milk. Kerala boasts of a variety of payasams called Pradhaman, which are cooked with coconut milk and use jaggery as the sweetener.

Payasams are mandatory in every feast, Hindu or Muslim. Some of the best payasams are cooked in Indian temples and served free to thousands of devotees each day. The payasams of Guruvayoor, Ambalappuzha and Sabarimala are very famous and have interesting stories behind them.

In Ambalapppuzha, a small town near Alappuzha in Kerala, Lord Krishna challenged a vain King to a game of chess. On winning, the king was outraged at the Lord’s apparently puny demand - one grain of rice on the first square, 2 on the second, four on the third and so on. The amount of rice grew exponentially (The total amount of rice on the first half of the chessboard would weigh around 100,000 Kg. In the second half of the chess board, the rice grains would weigh 6 times over the weight of the Earth!). The now humbled king realised his folly and sought forgiveness. Lord Krishna relented and permitted him not to clear the debt immediately, but over time. The king agreed to serve payasam made with rice to all devotees till the debt was cleared. It is served at the Unni Krishna temple to this day and at the current rate, the debt is likely to be paid off in a few million years!

In Sabarimala, we see the Aravana payasam, a unique payasam made without milk. Broken rice, ghee and jaggery are simmered down to a very sweet, viscous, brown, grainy, glistening pudding. It is so popular that a million kg is sold every month during the festive season! According to a myth, Lord Ayyappa, the presiding bachelor deity was wooed by a girl who brought him this payasam everyday. He grew so fond of it that it is still offered to Him daily.

Kerala payasams are cooked in thick bottomed, heavy bronze vessels, called charakku. These thick vessels distribute heat evenly and allow for long periods of simmering without burning food.

The Bhat payasa, served at the Puri Jagannath temple, is probably the oldest recorded rice pudding. It is said that the recipe has not changed over two thousand years.

The Mugal version of payasam, cooked in Hyderabad, called Gil - e - firdaus (clay of paradise) is a thick, rich pudding cooked with milk, sugar and vermicelli.

Another variety of payasams called phirni are cooked in the North India. These are nothing but thick payasams cooked with rice paste, milk and sugar.

And this is for Srivalli's Festive Treats.


Miakoda said... favorite dessert! I loved reading the stories behind it. Always makes it more interesting. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ramki,
You have given some recipes under the label of Pudding, but they belong to Paayasam,no?Just to notify.

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