A rich and sweet pudding made with milk and vermicelli, laced with fragrant saffron and cardamom, this payasam or kheer is a beloved Indian dessert.
I wrote out a draft for this post in 2013, back when I started this blog. I had always wanted to document the recipe for my favorite Indian desserts of all time, the delicate semiya payasam. Whether you call it payasam, payesh or kheer, no grand Indian meal is complete without this thick milky pudding.
There are many types of payasam, but it is mostly made with rice, broken vermicelli or split lentils cooked in milk or coconut milk. Sugar or jaggery is then added for sweetness.
In every South Indian household, there will be two distinct camps of payasam lovers. Some (like me) love the delicate milk and sugar version, and some others love the earthy richness of the coconut milk and jaggery combo. Since I belong to the former camp, this post is all about my favorite vermicelli payasam made with milk and sugar, laced with fragrant saffron and cardamom to make a delightful sweet treat
It is almost time for Onam, the annual Kerala harvest festival. The highlight of Onam is the scrumptious vegetarian feast known as sadya, and this semiya payasam is sure to make an appearance as a sweet finish to the meal. Payasam is traditionally garnished with cashew nuts and raisins fried in ghee. You may use other crushed nuts or dry fruits as per your preference.
I brought some fragrant saffron back with me from India and couldn’t resist adding a pinch for color and flavor. The aroma as the pot of payasam simmers on the stove is simply to die for.
Semiya is traditionally served warm, but my favorite way is to eat it the next day, straight from the refrigerator. Raise your hands if you look forward to the leftovers too!
- Ghee - 2 tbsp
- Cashew nuts and raisins - 8-10 each
- Vermicelli/Semiya - ½ cup, heaped
- Water - 1 cup
- Whole Milk - 2 cups
- Condensed milk - ½ cup
- Saffron - a small pinch, steeped in a tablespoon of warm milk
- Cardamom powder - ½ tsp
- Salt - a small pinch
- Heat ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Fry the cashew nuts and raisins till golden, drain and keep aside.
- In the same pan, roast the vermicelli till it turns golden brown in color. Take care not to burn it.
- Add water and milk and bring to a boil. Add vermicelli, reduce the heat and simmer till verrmicelli softens and the milk reduces and thickens. Keep stirring every now and then.
- Once the milk is reduced, add condensed milk, saffron, cardamom powder and salt. Stir well and remove from heat. Remember that the payasam will thicken as it cools. So take it off the heat just short of your desired consistency.
- Garnish with fried cashew nuts and raisins. Serve warm or cold.
2. Sweetened condensed milk helps in giving the payasam a thick, creamy consistency. You can replace it with ½ cup of white sugar instead.
3. If you need to serve the payasam later and it has thickened considerably, thin it out with some boiling hot milk or water.
There’s nothing like a warm bowl of payasam at then end of a sumptuous meal!!
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