The History Of South India's Famous Rice Pudding, Payasam
Image Credit: Shutterstock, Pazha Payasam

A bowl of Kheer is always considered to be auspicious. This humble dessert which even finds it’s mention in the Ayurveda as a happy food for good health, kheer can be made with multiple ingredients be it lauki, sewayian, rice, apple, mango and so on.  

Interestingly across the country kheer , Payesh or Payasam is made in different ways and each has their story. Amongst them Payasam is said find it’s mention for the first time in ancient Buddhist-Jain manuscripts. These manuscripts were written around 400 BC as payas. This sweet dish seems to have a deep rooted connection with the Buddha. The story goes that Buddha is said to have broken his seven-year fast by having a bowl of kheer. Kheer or payasam too has a major role in the construction the Konark Temple. It’s said that after many attempts when the foundation of the temple couldn’t be laid, then a young boy used a bowl of kheer to explain how the foundation can be done. That also gave birth to the gointa godi kheer, which till date happens to be state’s signature sweet dish.

Pazha Payasam / Pic- @annamsrecipes instagram

Coming to the history of history of payasam in Kerala, it’s said that Krishnan, disguised as a sage and came to King of Ambalapuzha challenging him to a game of chess. The king was known for being the chess grandmaster. He accepted the challenge but there that is Krishna the sage own the rice ahs to be given that amounts to one grain of rice on the first square and so on. As Krishna won, the the king had to give a lot of grains now. But as Krishna revealed himself, he said that the king now has to give payasam to every pilgrim who came to the Ambalapuzha temple. Till date the best payasam is  served in the temples of Guruvayoor and Ambalappuzha. The whole area of Thrissur or Kunnamkulam, gets to see many varieties of lip-smacking such as Tender Coconut Payasam, Pazham Payasam, and Palada Payasam. 

Here's the recipe of Pazha Payasam


    4 tablespoons rice

    12-14 cashews

    12-14 almonds

    8-10 pistachios

    3 cups milk

    8-10 saffron strands

    4 tablespoons sugar

    4 tablespoons condensed milk

    4 green cardamoms

    1 tablespoon almonds

    1 tablespoon pistachios

    ½ cup apples

    ½ cup grapes

    ½ cup banana

    ½ cup pomegranate

    ½ cup mango

Steps In Making

1)Soak rice in water for 30 minutes. Similarly soak all the nuts in water for 30 minutes too. Peal the skin of the almonds before using them.

2)In a mixer grinder add the rice, nuts and some water. Grind till it gets a coarse texture.

3)In a pan or kadai add milk and bring it to a boil.

4)Now add the grounded paste of the rice and nuts and saffron strands. Now while stirring it occasionally cook for 4-5 minutes or until the rice is swollen and cooked.

5)Further add sugar. condensed milk, crushed cardamoms, chopped almonds and pistachios and mix well. Cook till the sugar is completely dissolved and the kheer becomes little thick. Do not over cook it, as it will thicken post it cools down.

6)Once done let the kheer cool down completely and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl add the chopped fruits and add the chilled kheer on top and give it a good mix.

7)The fruit kheer is ready. Serve immediately. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.