Cabbage Payasam sounds weird, to say the least, and isn’t something that sits easy in one’s mind if you know Indian sweets and desserts. Cabbage is a vegetable, a sort of “stinky” vegetable and definitely not the thing you would normally choose to make dessert out of. More so when you know just how delicious Indian payasam or kheer (Indian pudding like sweet usually made with milk, sugar, cardamom and nuts) can get.
That’s what I also thought the first time I came across Vasantha Moorthy’s recipe for “Cabbage Rabadi” in “The Vegetarian Menu Book”. My recipe that follows this post is adapted from the book.
As I was saying, I was quite skeptical how a vegetable like cabbage could be a part of something so nice. Yet the sheer unusualness of it all had me marking it down to make at the first opportunity. As it turned out, this Cabbage Payasam has been a hit every time I’ve served it for its great taste and always elicits surprise and disbelief from our guests when they discover that there was “cabbage” in their payasam!
So it’s my birthday today. I’m another year older though I’m not sure a lot wiser.
Traditionally, in my community, birthdays come and go and are not celebrated or made much of except the first one ever. Birthdays in general start with offering prayers at a temple and then a more elaborate meal than usual, called a “Sadya”, is served where the sweet dish is always a Payasam (a milk or coconut milk based sweet, usually made with rice or sometimes lentils or fruit like ripe plantain or jackfruit)
I thought of the Cabbage Payasam and that’s what I’m celebrating with today. It also happens that I’m one of those few who actually likes cabbage, provided it’s fresh and cooked savoury.
It’s important to keep a couple of things in mind when making a Cabbage Payasam. Please, please please, make sure to use really fresh cabbage, and look for cabbages that are green rather than white. The whiter cabbages and the those that are not fresh tend to develop the hallmark “stink” and will lend that to the Payaysam. Now that is something you do not want!
You may use skim milk, but full fat always gives you that really creamy and milky taste that Payasam made with milk should have.