Onam 2022: Sadya Is Incomplete Without Payasam
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Payasam is another name for the sweet dish called Kheer in Hindi. While Kheer is primarily a preparation in Northern India, Payasam is made in the South. Considered an auspicious offering to the Gods, it is a must-have during festivities throughout the year, across the country. While Payasam is typically made with coconut milk and jaggery, kheer uses powdered sugar/bura with milk. That is the primary difference between the two forms of preparation. There are references in Gujarati literature of 14th century BC, of kheer being prepared from millets and milk too.  

Payasa means milk in Sanskrit. The word Payasa itself is derived from Peeyushum which means nectar. The dish is said to have originated in Southern India – specifically in Kerala and finds mention in the ancient texts too. In a story entitled ‘The Legend of the Chessboard’, a sage called Krishna was challenged by the king of Ambalapuzha to play chess. To encourage the sage, the king offered anything that the sage would name. 

The sage asked for only a few grains of rice but on the condition that the king put a single grain on the first chess square and then double it on every consequent one. The sage won the game and as promised, the king started to place the grains on the board. As he progressed, he was shocked to find that the grains grew exponentially on the board, finally running into millions of grains. The sage then revealed himself as Lord Krishna and asked the king to offer payasam to every pilgrim who visited his temple in this town. The Ambalapuzha Krishna temple, located in the present day Kerala’s Alappuzha district follows this tradition to date. 

There are several varieties of payasam recipes – from the traditional which includes rice (a staple food across the country), to vermicelli, moong dal and other preparations like rava payasam, pal payasam and kheeror payasam. While Keralites and Tamilians call the dish Payasam, Kannadigas refer to it as payasa.  

A single serving of payasam has over 400 calories of which 175 are carbohydrates, 44 are proteins and the remaining are fat. The nutrient value is about 20% of an adult’s requirement of calories for the day. Calcium, phosphorus and protein are also found in payasam. 

Here’s the recipe for Payasam.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 25-30 minutes

Servings: 2-3


    ⅓  cup seviyan/vermicelli 

    2 cups milk 

    2 tbsps mixed dry fruits (shredded almonds, cashews, and raisins)

    2 tbsps ghee 

    ⅓ cup jaggery 

    4-5 green cardamom pods


    In a preheated wok, put in ghee.

    Add cashews, almonds and saute them.

    In the same wok, add vermicelli and saute until golden brown.

    Add the milk and boil the mixture until the milk is reduced to half its quantity.

    Add powdered cardamoms, crushed jaggery and simmer until the milk has thickened. 

    Garnish with raisins on top. 

    Chill and serve.