Payakh, A Sweet Bowl Of Caramelised Assamese Kheer

According to historians, Kheer could be one of the oldest dishes in India and maybe even the world. It was first mentioned in ancient texts like the Mahabharat and the Ramayan as a mixture of rice, milk and sugar and that combination has gone relatively unchanged for over 2,000 years. It was originally thought of as a temple food in South India, or a Payasam, which was left as an offering to the gods and eaten around holy celebrations. 

Today Kheer has many faces and is known by many names such as Payesh, Payasam or Phirni, but all names lead back to this same ancient dish. The name is thought to have derived from the Sanskrit word ‘ksheer' or “kshirika” meaning milk and which was then expanded to denote any dish that was made with milk.

When Britain colonised India, they came across this dish and liked it so much that they started adding an anglicised version to their own cookbooks which over time became the traditional rice pudding that we see often on western menus. 

In Assam the dish is often made with black rice which is indigenous to the state and is made during festivals. There was a point when black rice was reserved only for the rich and not available to the commoners, but when that changed, this dessert became a household staple.


  • 1 L milk
  • 50 gms rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 100 gms sugar
  • ½ tsp elaichi powder
  • Raisins


  • Cook your rice in a pressure cooker or pot until just cooked.
  • In a large pot heat up the milk with the bay leaves till bubbling and then add the rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile in another pan, add your sugar with equal parts water and heat until it goes a deep golden caramel colour.
  • Pour the caramel into the rice mixture and stir till combined.
  • Add the elaichi powder and the stir through the whole mixture.
  • Serve garnished with raisins.