Payasam is the South Indian version of Kheer, the famed rice pudding of India. Payasam is an ancient dish, with a recorded history of thousands of years. Folklore has the story of Lord Krishna, who is known to have a love for anything sweet and challenged the King of Ambalapuzha to a chess game that he won. As a reward, he asked that one grain of rice be placed on the first square and then be doubled on every square. the king realized his folly and they agreed that every pilgrim that comes to the lovely Ambalapuzha Krishna temple is given a bowl of payasam, a tradition that persists even today. Another version is from the Buddhist culture where Buddha broke his seven-year fast with a bowl of "payas", a North Indian dessert and is one of the earliest recorded recipes from 400 BC of the dish
Folklore aside, payasam rules supreme in South India with thousands of variations with different grains and millets, fruits and even vegetables. These variations are divine, both from a cultural perspective and on the palate.
This recipe is no exception. the payasam is light and silky smooth. The payasam is barely sweet, you do not want to drown out the light flavour of the fruit, and refreshing. The fruit flavours are enhanced with the milk and the nuts and sultanas add nuances to the dessert. You will be drinking this payasam by the bowlful.
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2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon urad dal (black gram) flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
18 medium pieces of palmyra fruit + for garnish
20n cashew nuts, lightly roasted and roughly chopped
20 yellow sultanas or raisins
Heat the milk in a pot with the sugar and the urad dal flour. When warm, stir continuously till you get the consistency of light cream. Take off the stove.
Add the vanilla extract, cashew nuts and raisins and mix in well.
Purèe 15 of the palmyra fruits to a rough consistency and mix in. Chop the other 3 fruit into small bits and add to the payasam and stir well. Taste for sweetness and flavour.
Serve chilled topped with whole fruit.