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.