Paal Payasam or Rice Pudding is a South Indian style rice pudding cooked for festivals and special occasions. It is thinner in consistency than its Western counterpart. It is more of a thick pouring consistency as it is traditionally served on a plantain leaf. This is a preparation which takes a little bit of time to cook. The rice is cooked in milk till it is very soft, the milk has reduced in quantity and creamy . So it is important to cook this recipe in a thick walled/ heavy bottomed vessel. Otherwise the rice-milk mixture is likely to stick to the pan.
There are quicker recipes for this pudding cooked with sweetened condensed milk instead of milk. My version is more traditional, takes a little longer to cook and really the best way to do so. Very traditional recipes use only three ingredients – rice, milk and sugar, and is still cooked this way for temple offering. Slightly more modern recipes add cashewnuts and golden raisins fried in a little ghee. This and cardamom add more flavour to an already good Paal Payasam or Rice Pudding.
An important thing to note is that South Indian rice puddings use locally produced short or medium grain rice. Basmati and other fragrant or long grain rice don’t work well in this preparation. Use “Unakkalari”, an unpolished parboiled rice variety from Kerala if you can find it. This rice takes a lot of time to cook till soft if done on the stove top. I cook the rice in a pressure cooker, the one device most Indian women would be bereft without! You can use any short or medium grain white rice.
This Paal Payasam or Rice Pudding is usually made and served by itself. or a lot of festivities though, it is served with Parippuvadai or Aamvadai which are savoury and spicy lentil fritters.
Paal Payasam or Rice Pudding
- 1/2 cup raw rice
- 1 litre milk whole milk is best; I used 3% milk
- 1 cup milk whole milk is best; I used 3% milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 to 5 pods cardamom, powdered
- 2 tsp ghee optional
- 1 tbsp each broken cashewnuts and golden raisins optional
- Wash the rice and put it in a deep dish. Add 1 cup of water and the 1 cup of milk and cook it in the pressure cooker till very well cooked. Otherwise cook the rice in the microwave in half milk and half water.
- In another heavy bottomed/ thick-walled pan, pour the one litre of milk and bring it to boil. Add the cooked rice to it, stir well and then turn down the heat a bit. Allow the rice to cook in the milk for about 15 to 20 minutes or till the milk has reduced, in volume, to about half.
- Now add the sugar and stir till it dissolves. Allow the milk-rice-sugar mixture/ payasam to cook for another 10 minutes till it thickens slightly. Take it off the heat.
- Once it cools to room temperature, it will thicken a little more. The milk in the cooked payasam should be slightly thicker.
- Add the powdered cardamom and stir well. You may also add some ghee if you choose. Otherwise, heat the ghee and fry the golden raisins in it till they puff up. Remove them and then fry the broken cashewnuts till golden, in the same ghee. Pour this and the raisins into the payasam and stir.
- Serve warm, if serving as apart of a meal. Otherwise, chill and serve as dessert. This recipe will serve 4 to 6 people.